The bad board

Dateline: Thu 27 Nov 2008

For a lesson on why people distrust local government, look no further than the actions of the Indianapolis Washington Township board -- a gang of seven who voted, 4-3, to give themselves a big fat raise last week.

That means their salary, for holding under a dozen meetings in a year, will go from $2,250 to $3,800 -- but not if Washington Township resident Penny Bigelow and others have any say in the matter.

Bigelow is on the case. So are a few select members of the media, including the tireless Abdul Hakim-Shabazz (Indiana Barrister blogger and radio host of Newstalk 1430 AM, WXNT); veteran reporter Norm Cox of WTHR Channel 6 and John Tuohy of the Indianapolis Star.

This has been a particularly ugly story, according to Abdul and Norm's reporting, with board members hanging up on reporters and one board member invoking the "N" word in reference to a Channel 6 reporter. Creepy.

In Bigelow and those she has rallied, however, the board may have met its match: she is leading a petition drive against the pay hike and plans to take the issue to the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance, in an effort to get a public hearing on the deal.

Bigelow says she got energized six or seven years ago, after the board "tried to put the busiest fire station in Washington Township ON MY LOT LINE."

(Not incidentally, that fire department merged last year with the Indianapolis Fire Department, which meant the board had a smaller budget and less to do).

Says Bigelow: "I continued to attend the meetings when I saw what poor decisions were being made -- by both parties. I was often the only citizen there, so I spoke out in order to represent the public.

"Since Jan 2007, there have been usually 2 to 6 citizens there. So, more people are getting interested. This 2009 budget, especially the 69% pay raise has the spotlight on them now, so I hope more people will attend the meetings and speak out."

The good news, as Bigelow notes, is that three of the seven board members refused to vote for the pay hike.

But how, one wonders, in this new era of fiscal responsibility and voter fury, can some of those board members be so arrogant?

If you want to read more history on this story, check Abdul's blog:

Also, look for an update here on how you can get involved, if you happen to live in the township, as I do....


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