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How county is run worth a trip to polls

It’s an off-year election. Yaawwn.

Most of the offices that are on the ballot this year feature one-sided races or even unopposed candidates. Double-yaawwn.

However, there is a referendum on the ballot this fall on whether Allen County should change to a single-executive system. Triple-yaaawwwn, streettttccch.

But no! Wait! This is important! Just by paying attention to this issue and showing up at the voting booth, you could make a real difference.

Otherwise, the question will be decided, as so many off-year election and primary contests are nowadays, by the true believers on one side or another who can organize enough votes to overwhelm the few people who take time to make thoughtful decisions at the polls.

Those who defy the odds and venture to the polls in November will be confronted with a sentence that sounds stark and dramatic: Shall the county government of Allen County be reorganized to place all executive powers in a Single County Executive and to place all legislative and fiscal powers in the County Council?

Basically, the plan you’ll be asked to approve or reject is this: Instead of three commissioners who are responsible for the county’s decisionmaking and legislation, Allen County would have one executive. That official could make decisions but not county rules or policies. And instead of a seven-member county council, with four members each representing one large section of the county and three at-large members, the council would have nine members, each representing a much smaller area of the county. The council, which now only controls revenue and spending, would also initiate and approve ordinances.

The plan’s advocates say this would streamline government operations, letting those who need to do business with Allen County get answers and commitments more quickly.

Opponents are concerned that a single-county executive system would be just the first wave of changes that would destroy Indiana’s traditional governmental systems. They fear that Fort Wayne might become too dominant in the new system. And, they say, the current system seems to work about as well as it ever did.

Even proponents of the change might agree with that last statement. The question is whether a county government system that was developed in the 1800s is efficient enough to hold its own in a business environment that moves at the speed of a computer click and includes other continents as well as other communities.

County leaders pushing the new governmental plan have come together in an organization called Advance Allen, and their representatives will be conducting talks and question-and-answer forums in the weeks ahead. Go to one of these meetings and keep up with our coverage this fall.

An issue so fundamental to our survival and growth deserves the full attention of this county’s voters – even in an off-year.