Many of us would agree that this should have been said, many times over, during the long, long nightmare known as the eight years of the Daniels administration.
What the above quote refers to, however, is what he should have said before he sold off the Indiana Toll Road, for an incredible 75 years, to a consortium of private companies.
His remarks, at a press conference, should have been, in full: “I am Governor Mitch Daniels and I am incompetent. Because of my incompetency, I am forced to sell off the Indiana Toll Road, at a horrendous financial loss to the current and future taxpayers of Indiana. Private companies will reap billions of dollars that should have gone to the citizens of this state. But, that will not happen, because I am incompetent and am unable to manage the toll road.
“Even though the road has always been managed by the state government, albeit sometimes with a fair amount of fraud, I am unable to do so and, therefore, am forced to relinquish Indiana's control of it for three quarters of a century.”
Unfortunately, no one in the media called him “incompetent” for his decision to give away the state’s control of the road – and its rich assets – for nearly a century. And many of my fellow Hoosiers thought he was good for the state because “he did things.” Well, compared, say, to the eight years of the Big Snooze (A.K.A. Governor Evan Bayh), one might, just might, be excused for getting a little excited about a governor who “did” something. The problem? Almost everything Mitch did was wrong. Damaging. For the benefit of the wealthiest among us. But, by golly, he did things! And, we’re all, literally, paying for it – and will be for at least 75 years.
It gets worse: The money from the toll road went right into Mitch’s great project devoted to those who make money from highways, dubbed Major Moves (or, as some of us prefer to call it, “Major Goofs”). Those billions were spent, hastily and unwisely, on destroying farms and forests in southwestern Indiana, so that he could engage in his lust for Interstates at a time when forward-thinking (and competent) government officials were working on fast, clean, and green methods of public transportation, instead of a senseless expansion of I-69. We need bullet trains, subways, monorails, and commuter trains and buses. Bring back the Interurban trains that my parents rode on in the 1920s!
It gets even worse: The funds have all been spent, even before the extension of I-69 between Indianapolis and Evansville could be completed. Math, anyone?
Speaking of addition and subtraction, who determined, then shared, the benefits of the sale of the toll road? I didn’t see or hear a story questioning the astounding loss of revenue. All I can recall is a collective cheer over the receipt of billions of dollars up front. But, if common sense had prevailed, those cheers would have turned to boos when it was calculated that the companies gleefully paying that money were well aware that they would collect an obscene amount of cash over the 75-year period. Mitch and his buddies were well aware of this, too. Instead, this money should have been collected by the state, on behalf of the state, to help alleviate Indiana’s embarrassing, sickening national ranking among the 50 states in the areas of education, basic health services, employment, and other things that matter.
We need governors who care more about infants than about Interstates.
This isn’t the end of the story. And that’s why I’m writing about it now, years after Mitch did it to Indiana. Privatization goes on. Whether it’s money destined for the pockets of politicians or the cronies of politicians. Whether the average person suffers from the sale of something that had been working until an “incompetent” mayor or governor simply had to get rid of the asset and let us all suffer the consequences. From toll roads (Indiana) to parking meters (Indianapolis), we citizens of this state are screwed as long as we have a state legislature or city council suspiciously eager and willing to go along with the decisions. And, as long as there is little, if any, interest by the media to do the math and start demanding answers - before the years- or decades-long contracts are signed.
My next post? It could begin, “I am Mayor Greg Ballard and I am incompetent.” Think about that when you pay a small fortune to use a parking meter, knowing that the vast majority of your cash is not going into the city’s coffers, but into the pockets of the company that bought the rights to collect your hard-earned money. For decades.