Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

Brown and Tallian skeptical of library consolidation plan

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Two local state legislators aren’t exactly thrilled about the renewed effort to consolidate libraries.

Both State Rep. Charlie Brown, D-3rd, and State Senator Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, gave a lukewarm reaction to the proposed legislation discussed at Thursday’s meeting of the Westchester Public Library Board. The proposal would require that counties form planning committees to prepare a plan for library services; even if the committees recommend keeping separate library systems, the Indiana State Library could overrule that recommendation.

Brown said he would need to get more facts about the bill’s impacts, but that he tends to take a cautious approach toward any of the local government consolidation proposals pending.

He noted that just last year, the state required a consolidation of most township assessor posts with the county offices. It’s too early to know if the assessor consolidation has worked well, if it resulted in significant tax savings, and if it has been practical, he said.

“I think the same thing may be true for libraries,” he said.

Brown said he can’t say for certain that he would vote against the proposed library legislation, but said he would be hesitant to vote for it unless there is “compelling information” that it would benefit taxpayers without inconveniencing people or reducing their level of service.

“I think we need to take a wait and see position,” he said.

Similarly, Brown said he is skeptical of the other consolidation proposals pending, such as the move to replace the three county commissioners in each county with just a single elected executive who would have broad authority over other departments. He said that for larger counties -- such as Lake County, which has more than 400,000 people -- a single executive to manage county government would be impractical.

Tallian takes a similar stand. Like Brown, she said she would need more information about the library proposal, but that in general, she feels that a “one-size-fits-all” approach doesn’t always work.

“In general, I think library consolidation is a local issue,” she said.

Tallian noted that Indiana is facing a steep budget deficit and that Gov. Mitch Daniels wants to push his agenda, which includes smaller government,  to  address that spending gap. But Tallian said that reducing government sometimes doesn’t improve efficiency. “That doesn’t  always work, especially in some smaller places,” she said.

She also said it appears that Porter County’s two library systems -- WPL and the county system -- appear to be functioning well as they are. “So let’s mess with something else,” she said.

When asked her views about the provision that would allow the state to overrule the county board’s recommendation, Tallian said: “This is one more example of the state having power over everything.”

The library bill as of this morning was not yet posted online.

Posted 1/9/2009





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