WHEN last we larked through the Hoosier State, you and I, a giant makeshift "Teabag", commissioned, sewn together from old sheets, stuffed with property tax statements and ceremoniously lowered towards the Indianapolis Water Company Canal as the cameras looked on by--if standard surveys are to be trusted--a group of irate citizens, 87% of whom could not have identified the reigning monarch at the time of the original Boston Tea Party if you spotted them K-i-n-g G-e-o-r and g, had successfully removed popular, two-term Demopublican Indianapolis mayor Bart Peterson and replaced him with a guy who had found out he was running only that morning. This, despite the fact that Peterson's only responsibility for the property tax Crisis! was shepherding a county option tax designed to avert a looming long-term actual crisis in police pensions, and despite the fact that the vote returned to power a Republican mayor/City-County Council combination whose last salient fiscal accomplishment was appointing a crony-and-kickback specialist Library Board so incompetent it approved a $145 million-dollar building project without hiring a construction manager, leading to a thrifty sub-contractor replacing the standard concrete-and-rebar formula with a less-expensive wet-sand-with-nails-stuck-in-it mix, resulting in a three-year delay, lawsuits thick as a DQ Blizzard™, and a $50 mil cost overrun that we know of. All of which wound up--wait for it--on the property tax bills of all those protestors.
Democracy simply does not work! The rare local news viewer with an attention span of more than 30 seconds and a partisanship level below Rabid could only stand by and watch as the wholly-predictable political process turned The Great Tax Revolt of Ought Seven into a golden opportunity to fleece people in exciting new ways while removing those services which won't be missed until after the next election. Oh, he might smirk as Mayor-elect Incognito decided sometime between Election Night and his first tentative Whack-a-Mole public appearances that those Property Taxes he'd campaigned on eliminating might on second thought be somewhat useful after all, and he could only yell at the screen as a succession of semi-skilled teleprompter readers intoned about The Governor's Plan to solve the Crisis! just prior to the whole thing being allowed to creep back in the closet with a lifetime's collection of other stupid impulse purchases. Somehow, between last summer's insistent coverage and the end of leaf raking the whole thing had been subsumed (as brave Indiana blogger Doug Masson has pointed out) under the rubric "Reform" when it is, in fact, a Restructuring of taxes that pay for vital services away from certain types of property tax onto (mostly) the statewide sales tax. The expedient of returning the inventory tax whose elimination served the same function in the Crisis! that the underwater portion of that iceberg did to the Titanic is, judging by the coverage, that rare idea which is untranslatable into English. The full-on proponents of Property Tax Elimination, known a brief season ago as Angry Citizen Voters were returned to their place as Unreasonable Cranks, even though 30% of Legislators seem to agree. As always, the reader is invited to propose any real-life antecedents which did not result in the immediate family filing commitment papers. Personally, I'm fresh out.
This, of course, is just a quick fly-by. The resultant swell of excitement among the august members of The World's Third Worst State Legislature™ will be familiar to anyone who owns an unspayed cat. Their first impulse was to split the solution into ten separate bills, on the off-chance that some of those Tax Revolters might actually continue paying attention through next November. Their second was to begin amending the state Constitution like, well, as if it were the Constitution of the State of Feline Estrus (the latest being a proposed amendment to prohibit taxing church property, even though we don't). This is Indiana. The legislative silly season always resembles a cross between Full Metal Kansas and the political sentiments available on your average West Texas jukebox, but still. Why th' fuck would any sane person give them ammunition? It is impossible to believe that voting-age tax protesters could have been completely unaware of what they were unleashing.
And this week marked the release of the Governor's Blue Ribbon Panel recommendations, which (as Doug points out) was not charged with solving the problem, but with finding ways to "reform" local governments which were, at most, a quarter of the problem. The Panel comprised state Supreme Court Chief Justice Randy Shepard, who will now spend a considerable portion of the rest of his public life being asked to recuse himself, and former Governor Joe Kernan, best known as the man who managed to lose the governorship to that guy from the Leprechaun movies. Space does not permit us to go into their findings in great detail. Let's just say my own expectations were met. Lowered, even.
All this couldn't come at a worse time for local news, which would prefer to allot its two hours/channel day to shopping tips (in the Spirit of the Season and with due consideration to the anti-news sentiments of its news-viewing audience, Channel 8, which was the only channel with a daily Iraq report, has now eliminated it in favor of having the guy who used to do it try to sneak it in ten minutes later while mumbling). They've certainly tried all the usual tricks--every theoretical Precipitation Event for the last six weeks has been pre-tallied as Possible Flurries! when in fact it's snowed exactly once, and at some point even notoriously environment-adverse Hoosiers are going to catch on. But a couple weeks ago there appeared on local radar an event even more portentious and viewer-distracting.
Hannah Montana came to town.
I mean, "she" apparently came to town, judging by the fact that the collective tongue of our local teleprompter-readers was so far up her Disney-manufactured fundament for a fortnight you could see only the soles of their shoes, which I believe is a quote from Alec Guinness. The artificial hoopla was like a combined Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and a Super Bowl halftime show starring someone they'd managed to reanimate the corpse of literally, rather than figuratively, this time. How badly do you need a job? And these are flipping adults, for want of a better term, and even if they didn't realize that this 14th Incarnation of Elvis according to the sacred rolls of White Suburban Girls Aged 13 to 13-and-one-quarter has about as much chance of lasting until they get their learner's permits as George Bush does of being inducted into the Orator Hall of Fame, they might cast a casual glance at the crapola they read every friggin night about Incarnation #13 (Lindsay Lohan) and #11 (Britney Spears) and note how they're gettin' along. At least they might act like they realize she's a fictional character and there's, for want of a better term, an actress underneath, and one who does not deserve the same fate, no matter what she's done or who her Daddy is. They sit there night after night jabbering about the effect of violent video games, single-parent households, or sagging blue jeans on Today's Youth, and yet never give a moment's thought to the psychic damage festering in the cesspit of blind consumerism. Nothing against this particular flavor of the month, mind you; I just think some balance would be nice. If instead of cosseted suburban consumerettes it were fifteen-year-old African American boys swooning over Miss Montana they'd be reporting on the latest Congressional investigation.
One positive note in all this: I have resolved that for the rest of my life I will vote for anyone whose position is, "We're too stupid to solve problems. Let's tread water and hope something floats by."