Vote “Yes” to Transfer Township Assessor Duties to County

We’ve sung the praises of MySmartGov before, but just want to reiterate the importance of the Township Assessor question by referencing the site, which outlines why this is such an important subject for taxpayers:

Until recently, property in Indiana was assessed by 1,008 township assessors in 1,008 different ways. Some assessors’ work may have been impeccable, but the taxpayers in their townships still may have been paying more than their fair share of taxes because of the less competent job by an assessor down the road.

In fact, a 2005 study by the Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute found that 80 percent of the townships did not meet international standards for uniformity. The assessments were well outside the accepted error rate of plus or minus 15 percent – that is, international standards say it is acceptable for a $100,000 house to be assessed anywhere from $85,000 to $115,000.

Our advice: You want to vote "Yes" on the ballot question, "Should the assessing duties of the elected township assessor in the township be transferred to the county assessor?"

But will you even be able to vote on this important initiative? Check here to see if your township will be voting on the matter.

Numbers That Matter in Indiana Right Now

As we approach the last Election Day on November 4, here is a list of key numbers and percentages that have greatly influenced this election.

  • 91% – Percentage of the national population that rates the economic conditions as “only fair" or “poor,” according to Gallup
  • 40% – Key percentage to look for in Indiana is if Obama can win 40% or more of the white vote. If Obama goes north of this number, he likely wins Indiana
  • I 30-49 – Independent 30-49 year old middle age voters are critical in deciding who will win Indiana’s eleven electoral votes
  • 26 – MINIMUM number of new legislators that will show up for the 2009 Indiana General Assembly. This number is likely to go up following the defeat of incumbents
  • 76 – Number of IBRG Endorsed legislative candidates in 2008
  • 1 – Number of truly competitive Senate races on IBRG’s radar screen
  • 8 – Number of competitive House races IBRG is playing in today
  • 13 – House races that are either lean or toss-up
  • +2 R / +3 D – This is the likely range for party change in the Indiana House
  • 345,582 - Newly registered voters in 2008 alone (8.4% of voters)
  • 525,264 – Newly registered voters since 2006 General Election. That means that 12.7% of voters are newly registered since 2006. This is a huge NEW voting block that did not exist two years ago.
  • 455,035 – Absentee ballots cast as of last night. This is already 11% of total registered voters (4,135,301 active voters).

Finally, the last number that may matter most to all of us – 4; there are only four days left to vote.

What the Outside World Thinks About Indiana

Larry Gigerich of Ginovus, an Indiana Chamber member, penned an enlightening column for the Inside INdiana Business newsletter Wednesday, stating how important it is that Hoosiers in business understand how those outside of the state view us. He points to recent national rankings as trending especially positive for the Indiana business community, but stresses that "Indiana leaders must keep the gas pedal down to ensure that our state maintains its competitive advantage in the Midwest." He lists the following rankings:

1. Chief Executive Magazine: Indiana ranked 1st in the Midwest and 8th nationally for Best for Business. This ranking was based upon a survey of 605 chief executive officers of companies located throughout the United States.

2. The Tax Foundation: Indiana ranked 1st in the Midwest and 12th nationally for low taxes. This ranking was developed through a study completed by economists and researchers who examined the overall tax burden in states.

3. Forbes Magazine: Indiana ranked 1st in the Midwest and 4th nationally for cost of doing business. This ranking was based upon a study completed by economists and researchers who looked at several different factors impacting operating costs of businesses.

4. The American Legislative Council: Indiana ranked 1st in the Midwest and 12th nationally for economic competitiveness. This ranking was based on an analysis of factors impacting the positioning of states for sustained economic growth.

5. Ernst & Young: Indiana ranked 1st in the Midwest and 5th nationally in new and maintained mobile jobs. The ranking was based upon a study that looked at jobs that could be located and/or moved to a different location.

Trip to the Pump Not Quite as Painful, Still There is Work to be Done

When you have a 17-year-old daughter who must pay for her own gasoline, each time the pump price comes down is a cause for celebration. I even received a call Wednesday afternoon asking if she should fill up (despite still having half a tank) when she saw the $1.98 a gallon price.

For someone burned by far too many of those hard-to-explain Thursday increases, I went out on a limb and said "No, you can wait." Oil prices are supposed to decrease even further and the down economy (reality and fears) that is contributing to the pump relief unfortunately isn’t going to change overnight.

The Heritage Foundation’s Ben Lieberman offers some deeper perspective, warning that Congress must not go back on its easing of drilling restrictions. It also should reduce the red tape and avoid costly oil and gas regulations. Short-term gain will be replaced by long-term pain if we don’t act wisely.

Read Lieberman’s analysis.

CS Monitor Moving to Web: A Harbinger of What’s to Come for Newspapers?

Many of us have been saying it: One day newspapers won’t be in print anymore, and we’ll get their information from our computers. I was an editor of a newspaper who got out of the business a little over two years ago, and I’m not sure I’ve read an actual print version of a newspaper since — although I frequently visit their web sites. Granted, I think I’m allergic to newsprint as I have an immune system (and occasionally a disposition) comparable to the Bubble Boy on "Seinfeld,"  but there’s also been no reason to. However, some say there are folks who will always want a tangible copy, so I guess the argument for print still exists. 

At any rate, the Christian Science Monitor, which is about to celebrate its 100th anniversary, is now set to change its business paradigm to focus on the Web.

Judy Wolff (chairman of the board of trustees for the Christian Science Publishing Society) cited three goals that drove what she called "our evolving strategy" for the Monitor:

• Producing a website that can be updated 24/7 and delivered instantaneously "better fulfills Mrs. Eddy’s original vision" for the Monitor to be daily than does a five-day-a-week paper delivered by mail with frequent delays.

• Focusing resources on the fast-growing Web audience for news rather than on the economically troubled daily newspaper industry "increases the Monitor’s reach and impact." The Monitor’s website currently attracts about 1.5 million visitors a month.

• Eliminating the major production and distribution costs of a daily newspaper will allow the Monitor to "make progress toward achieving financial sustainability" while supporting its global news resources.

I’m still not totally sure how this profit model would work for other papers, though. The Monitor has the benefit of being subsidized by the Christian Science church as the paper is estimated to lose, in all its forms, $18.9 million this year. Also noteworthy is this excerpt:

This is a period of extreme financial difficulty for all news organizations. New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr., for instance, was asked at a conference in California on Oct. 22 whether the Times would be a print product in 10 years. "The heart of the answer must be (that) we can’t care," Sulzberger said. He added that he expects print to be around for a long time but "we must be where people want us for our information."

Read the full article here. Let us know what you think. Is print dead or will the average American reader always have a little ink smudge on his fingers?

2008 Election Tidbits

A recent article in State Legislatures magazine, titled "The Perils of Success," outlines the respective battles going on at the state level throughout the country. I found the following passage to be most interesting:

The last time Democrats controlled more than 23 states was before the 1994 election, when Republicans walloped Democrats by seizing the majority in 21 chambers. Currently, Democrats have a 57 to 39 edge in control of individual chambers. There are two legislative bodies that have an equal number of Republicans and Democrats — the Oklahoma and Tennessee senates.

History suggests that success for either Senator John McCain or Senator Barack Obama will produce a coattail effect. Since the 1940 election of Franklin Roosevelt, the party winning the presidency has gained legislative seats in 11 of the 17 elections. That trend did not hold in 2004 when Republicans suffered a net loss of 25 seats despite George Bush’s reelection. On average, the party that wins the White House adds more than 125 legislative seats to its column.

Going into this election, there are 3,993 Democratic legislators — almost 55 percent of all seats held by the two major parties. There are 3,310 Republican legislators — 45 percent of the total. Only 21 legislators are independent or from other parties.

In Indiana, Democrats currently control the House by a slim 51-49 margin.

McCain/Obama and Small Business Issues

BusinessWeek recently took a look at how John McCain and Barack Obama stack up on small business issues, noting that small business owners and employees make up nearly a third of registered voters:

Despite recent outreach efforts by both men, some 80% of entrepreneurs could not name any ways in which either candidate says he will help small businesses, according to a poll of 400 business owners conducted by Suffolk University for turnaround specialists American Management Services. With small business owners and their employees representing 32% of all registered voters, that’s hardly a block of voters either candidate can afford to lose.

See a graphic table featuring the candidates making their trademark hand gestures here.

Innovation in Education Gone Awry

An oft-used unofficial definition of insanity: doing things the same way over and over and expecting different results. Some say that applies to education improvement efforts.

The following qualifies as "doing it differently" but falls way short of positive innovation. We’re talking about the initiative to pay students who show up for school, behave and do better on their test scores. The lineup of opponents to this ill-conceived strategy is long and vocal.

Stafford Palmieri of the Fordham Institute writes: "Higher standards, better teachers, and more tests are not the solution here. We need to teach our children that pulling an all nighter may be worth the temporary discomfort or that missing an episode of Project Runway is worth it to finish their math homework. That starts with parents. So here’s another great question: How are we going to get parents to start teaching their children to respect education?"

Diane Ravitch offers a Forbes op-ed here that closes with the following: "Interesting, isn’t it, that while students in other countries are paying $1,500 a year for the chance to learn more, many American students will be paid that same amount just to do what they ought to be doing in their own self-interest?

Does the future belong to those who struggle to better themselves, make sacrifices to do so and work hard? Or to those who must be cajoled and bribed to learn anything at all?"

Go Stafford and Diane. Where do you fall on paying kids to do what they’re supposed to be doing away?

Poker, Waves & the Three E’s

If I were a poker player, I would declare “All In!”  It is in this spirit that I share a few of the thoughts/theories that have been bouncing around in my head over the past seven months:

  • Since early May, I have felt that Barack Obama would win Indiana and the White House. There you go, it’s now officially in print forever that I am going against over 40 years of Presidential history in Indiana.
  • There are two waves going on in Indiana:  One is the Barack Obama wave and the second is the Mitch Daniels wave. Both have run superb campaigns, taken advantage of massive fundraising efforts, pushed the use of internet campaigning to new heights and are clearly agents of “change.” To me, the bigger question is: “Which wave — Obama or Daniels — will carry the statewide, Congressional and House races across the finish line?”
  • First time voters WILL be the determining voter group in several races on the ballot from President down to State Representative. The amount of attention focused on this new group has been considerable, but this group deserves even more discussion than it is receiving.
  • The 3 E’s — emotion, enthusiasm and excitement — explain the three points above. To me, the biggest story of this election cycle arguably is what has driven so many people, especially first time voters, to vote.  Campaigns and issues driven by these 3 E’s are hard to measure, hard to stop and attract many new people. This applies to political, corporate or charity campaigns. Remember: Emotion drove millions of people to donate money, clothes and even blood following disasters like Katrina and 9-11, and it is emotion, enthusiasm and excitement that are driving people to vote in this election right now.

I believe a wave of significant importance is now taking place in Indiana and the country. I will save my thoughts on how the Indiana House races will be impacted for a posting closer to the election.

Is Time Running Out on Incumbents?

"Vote Not to Re-elect!": This well stated bumper sticker I saw on a car yesterday summed up the feelings of many voters. People are clearly sick and tired of who we currently have in office, at all levels and of all parties. Incumbents in toss-up or lean districts are vulnerable. Incumbents in safe seats may escape with a victory, but it will unlikely be with the ridiculous margins to which they’ve grown accustomed.

As of today, the Secretary of State is reporting there are 524,405 newly registered voters since the 2006 general election. This is over a half-million people in a state with very little population growth. That means that nearly 12% of voters are newly registered. This is a voting bloc that simply did not exist two years ago, yet it now makes up a significant percentage of voters.

The next question for voters will be something like this, “Do you think a legislator who has served for 34 years needs to go?” The qualifications for those challengers may not be an issue or on the minds of voters, but voters will "Vote Not to Re-elect" in large numbers this year.