Sunday, September 30, 2012


Reprinted here with permission from IPR.

Say, do you remember
Dancing in September
Never was a cloudy day
Golden dreams were shiny days
– “September” by Earth, Wind and Fire
By Liz Brown

“September” might be the sad song my hometown will be humming soon. Will we remember the September before our city government was on the precipice, before it came to the fork in the road? Will we remember when it still had the chance to change course? Will we remember what we did about it -– or did not do?

With apologies to Earth, Wind and Fire, the Grammy-winning Chicago band, there was prescience in those dreamy 1978 lyrics. For there would come a September three decades later when my city would miss cloudless, shiny, golden days.

Because in September city governments throughout Indiana had to make a choice, had to draw that line in the sand and say: “No more; we're going down the wrong path; we're not better off than we were four years ago.”

If that line could be drawn, we told ourselves, we could be better off in four years, we could look back and remember that we made the right choices this September.

But first the citizens in my town needed to remember that . . .
  • Last year our city called for a property-tax increase with a cash reserve of only about $15 million, a little less than 10 percent of the annual budget.
  • The 2012 budget was passed with $3 million more in expenditures than the city expected to receive in revenues, thereby avoiding that property-tax increase but requiring the city to dip into its cash reserve.
  • The 2013 city budget also asks for a tax increase. And if our council passes it without one or without spending cuts, then the city again must draw from cash reserves, perhaps this time to a level below which bond insurers will find acceptable.
  • And finally, we will want to remember that our city council was looking at increasing the tax burden at the same time our largest school district was asking for a property-tax increase and that city residents were facing years of sewer-rate increases in order to comply with an order from the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
Similar stories of "politics as usual" were written throughout the state, all of which reminded the observer less of the historically responsible Hoosier governance of three decades ago and more of the “Chicago Way” of today.

In Chicago, the mayor received over $1 billion dollars from the lease of its parking facilities and meters only to spend it filling the budget holes there, leaving his successor in debt. It sounds familier, doesn’t it? It hits close to home.

And if that doesn’t make you want to give the budget to a fiscal conservative with a red pencil, consider the national news: Household income is down 8.2 percent since this president took office while state and local government pay is up; health insurance premiums are up $3,065, not down $2,500 as promised four years ago; and Medicare Advantage enrollees face a $515 benefit cut this next year.

Add it all up at your kitchen table. There’s no legacy anywhere there, not unless our elected representatives get a hold on expenditures.

How will they do that? Our children are showing us the way, teaching us to sing a new tune. A recent Wall Street Journal article noted that savings is increasing atypically among members of the coming generation. They realize that they are going to have to live within their means.

So can our cities. All of us at the local level, Republicans and Democrats, know it is necessary. Our children’s means and our means are being squeezed by short-sighted, self-serving political decisions in Washington and at City Hall.

In our hometowns at least, let’s cut spending and start saving. Let’s lighten the burden on already overworked taxpayers trying to stay within their means.

Then we can look back and remember that this was the September we invested in responsible, prudent government and not merely in somebody’s political career.

Elizabeth M. Brown, J.D., is an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, a graduate of Notre Dame and an active member of the Republican National Lawyers Association. She served four years on the Fort Wayne City Council in an at-large seat and was a candidate for mayor in the GOP primary. Contact her at

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