It's an identity issue

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Editorial: Dec. 14, 2012

ISSUE: Hardin County United’s way forward
OUR VIEW: Purpose, targets need clarification

After the Hardin County community showed underwhelming interest in unified local government — failing to embrace the idea of exploring what that government might look like, even — it seems the volunteer group Hardin County United has lost steam.

Founded after a vision project identified 24 goals for the county, Hardin County United is best known for taking up the initiative to form a commission to study other merged governments and make recommendations for Hardin County.

The idea met resistance along the way and died in August when Hardin Fiscal Court voted 7-2 against creating a unification review commission.

HCU’s chairman, Hardin County Judge-Executive Harry Berry, announced his intent to resign his position with the group. He’ll continue his work until a replacement is named and looks for that to happen by April.

Also, Hardin Circuit Judge Ken Howard has resigned as chairman of HCU’s governance committee, which oversaw a study of unified government.

The organization’s key issue has been postponed indefinitely, at least, and two leaders are stepping away.

HCU’s image is one of retreat.

Yet, this image doesn’t have to be permanent.

Just two of the 24 proposed goals dealt with unification, but campaigning for unified government defines the group. Unified government is off the table, so many wonder where the group goes from here.

Changing the one-issue image will require reviving the organization as a pure community group. With the announcement of his resignation, Berry noted someone from the private sector without political baggage should head the group. He’s right. The community has an abundance of credible expertise to tap and someone who could be viewed more objectively would be better equipped to advance the HCU agenda.

Secondly, HCU needs to determine its next targets.

Some of the 24 goals from the vision project have been taken on by other organizations. Yes for Economic Success has been working to achieve full wet status in the county’s urban areas. A specific steering committee is pursuing a Hardin County YMCA.

Some of the goals are beyond a community group’s reach, so to speak, and will require full participation of other existing entities. Take, for example, merging public school districts throughout the county or obtaining trauma center certification for Hardin Memorial Hospital.

The organization would best serve the community by defining where its work will fill a need and where its work won’t be blocked by existing entities or state statutes. The remaining opportunities mostly are found in the economic development and quality of life arenas.

Still, maybe HCU doesn’t have to move forward as executors. Perhaps the organization can live solely as an umbrella under which people from different areas can collaborate or it might play a valuable role in policy research.

Whatever the way forward, the path should be illuminated.

This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.