The News-Enterprise: HCU plan pitched at chamber luncheon meeting

Speaker says listeners are open-minded

The following article by Amber Coulter appeared in The News-Enterprise on October 13, 2011. You can see the full, online version here:

Ken Howard learns more about what residents think about unified government and what it might look like every time he speaks to a civic organization.

Howard, circuit judge and Hardin County United’s governance committee chairman, addressed a Hardin County Chamber of Commerce luncheon Wednesday at Pritchard Community Center in Elizabethtown. He talked to members about potential advantages of unification and reasons to support creation of a commission that would further explore the issue. Howard said the best ideas related to unification tend to come from people offering ideas in small group settings.

“I know that we have not thought of all the good ideas yet,” he said.

The most consistent sentiment Howard hears when he discusses potential advantages of a unified government with residents is that it’s an interesting idea, maybe a good idea, but it never will be put into place.

Howard tells them that the idea could become a reality if enough people support it.

Most people are open-minded about the idea of unification and are willing to listen and think about it, he said.
For now, the goal of Hardin County United is to gain approval for creation of a commission that would draft a plan for how a unified government would operate.

The commission would consist of 20 to 40 residents appointed by participating governmental organizations and provide voters with a better idea of how unification would impact the area. Howard said people often say there should be more information available about unification.

“They’re exactly right,” he said. “We need more information.”

Howard said the trouble is that he and others who support creating a commission can’t give many details about the impact of unification because it’s impossible to know what plan the commission would draft.

The commission would not enact unification and being part of a commission wouldn’t be a sign that a participating organization supports unification, he said.

Enacting the change would require a vote, and state legislation is planned to make sure that a city would only be part of a unified government if that city’s residents approve the measure.

Unification isn’t an issue of governmental entities performing badly, Howard said.

“Our current government is at least good,” he said.

Howard said it’s important to make sure residents periodically evaluate whether their governmental entities are the most effective they can be or whether they continue to operate the way they do because that’s how things have always been done.

“Do we want to think about, do we want to know about, do we want to decide about our own government,” he said.

Potential advantages include showing off the area’s population to make it more attractive for businesses, Howard said. What businesses now see as Elizabethtown, the state’s 11th-largest town, and Radcliff, the 17th-largest, would join with other parts of the county to become the third-largest community in the state, he said

Already, about 85,000 Hardin County residents live in the same geographic area as Bowling Green’s estimated 54,000 residents, he said.

“The reality is that we do not have two populations,” he said. “We have one population.”

Unification also would give the area one large voice and increase how often state and national officials consider Hardin County in their plans, Howard said.

“What would our community look like if we worked well together on every project, not just the large projects?” he asked.

Howard doesn’t know how likely it is that a commission will be approved. He encourages residents to let officials know what they think about the idea of forming a commission.

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