Local officials concerns: health issues, highways 

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By Jesse Wilson

Local government officials say they're concerned about health insurance costs, drug and alcohol issues, obesity, abandoned properties and investments in roads and highways as they think about the state's future.

But they say they're also optimistic about their communities.

The Indiana Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations conducted the survey - the 11th poll of elected officials - to get a better look into the issues that are most important to Indiana's well being.

"When we talk about issues that are important to Hoosiers, you have to go directly to their communities and ask the questions," said state Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport, who chairs the advisory commission. "I am continuously impressed by the participation of local officials with our survey, and remain encouraged by the discussions that follow as we tackle issues of importance around the state."

The main portion of this survey is a series of questions about 75 community conditions in six different categories: Health, economics, public safety, local services and infrastructure, land use, and community quality of life.

The group surveyed 1,185 local officeholders in the summer and fall of 2012, including all city mayors; one randomly selected member of each board of commissioners, county council, town council, school board; and one or two randomly selected township trustees from each county. The response rate was 35 percent.

"This survey gives us a first-hand account of what's going well and what needs to be worked on. And, it's been proven to be a valuable asset for policy makers and the people they serve," said John Krauss, director of the IACIR and the IU Public Policy Institute.

The survey found that:

About 70 percent of respondents said they were optimistic about the direction in which their communities were headed. That's more than in the surveys done in 2008 and 2010 but less than in previous surveys.

The cost of health insurance (57 percent), drug and alcohol abuse (46 percent), overall economic conditions (46 percent), and job loss and unemployment (45 percent) were the conditions most often identified as major problems in communities.

When the categories "major" and "moderate" problems were combined, the top answers were job loss and unemployment and overall economic conditions - both at 90 percent. Others issues listed by at least 85 percent of respondents were the cost of health insurance, obesity and drug and alcohol abuse.

Jesse Wilson is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students and faculty.

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