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Good governance

| Saturday, July 9, 2011

The polarization needs to stop.

People can debate the wisdom behind the argument that we can't legislate morality. But legislating good government?

Good, constructive government takes wise leadership, pure and simple.

State Sen. Don White, R-Indiana, was trying to legislate good government when he wrote a measure (which did well in his chamber but died on the committee level in the House) that would prevent school boards from acting on major business in odd-numbered years, between Oct. 1 and the organization meeting of newly elected board in December.

It must be obvious to anyone who follows the machinations of the Armstrong School Board within White's district that it was that body's example that motivated the lawmaker to proposed corrective action.

Since the primary election, which saw the current board majority on the losing end (more meaningful in a primary in which candidates can cross-file and claim both major party nominations), there has been major disagreements, even as the lame-duck directors (specifically directors Rose Stitt and James Solak) offered to cooperate with the current members who are likely to join with newly elected directors to form a different majority.

So far they have debated over an asbestos-removal plan (even in court), the need to dump voting regions in favor of districtwide elections and a real estate tax cut (which was approved). More to the point of White's legislation is that the asbestos removal was tied to a plan for large-scale renovations of buildings that voters are believed to have rejected by picking the candidates they did.

In writing his measure, White clearly was trying to prevent the kind of debating that keeps districts from looking as far as reasonable into the future when making decisions. But such legislation would seriously hamstring district governments, preventing them from changing course when necessary.

The polarization needs to stop, and the only way we can imagine that happening is if the constituency demands it -- not just in the polling place but at public meetings and in letters and e-mails to directors and comments in the news media.

We are aware that the Armstrong School District is not the only one in which scheming takes place. Yet when the board majority was elected and immediately voted at the earliest session possible to reopen Elderton High School, it was clear that it saw no merit in public debate -- and that factionalism would rule.

Simply put, it did not want to hear what others had to say. It was, of course, not the first board majority to do so.

If there is to be a new tone set in the Armstrong district, the new board envisioned to take office in December will have to be strong and act boldly.

As we noted, that cannot be legislated.

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