Mayor triumphs while Indiana legislature flounders in session

Recently, the people of Goshen gathered to celebrate the nearly 18 years Allan Kauffman spent as mayor. It was a joyous occasion recognizing a humble man of honor.

There may not be a more demanding job than mayor of an Indiana city. Starved of revenue and authority by an anti-urban state legislature, yet bearing all the responsibilities of maintaining a civil city, a Hoosier mayor is hard-pressed to sustain on-going approval by the electorate. Allan Kauffman achieved that approval as a city council member for 13 years before his appointment as mayor in 1997. He then was elected and re-elected mayor four times. Respected statewide, Kauffman focused, as mayors must, on the daily demands of streets, sanitation and safety.

On the same day, the Indiana General Assembly was irresponsibly bringing its latest session to a close — disgracing and disappointing the people of Indiana.

To understand the legislature, let’s take a moment to consider that, according to my research, no Hoosier mayor has ever been elected governor of the state. Mayors who became legislators over the past 200 years have been few, although I do not have the numbers.

If Indiana governors and legislators have not experienced leading a city, are they likely to understand the diverse and complex problems of our many localities? In addition, can those who revere the agricultural past, and persist in believing in the glory of those times, function successfully in the economy that has characterized Indiana for the past 100 years?

As they left the Statehouse last week, legislators once again failed to resolve pressing needs of the state, while embarrassing us in the eyes of the world, and proving their resistance to modern life.

Morton Marcus is an economist, formerly with the Indiana University Kelley School of Business. Send comments to