Scott Smith, Kokomo Tribune Staff Writer

Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight issued a call for a city-county joint commission on consolidation during a Monday State of the City speech which sought to reach far beyond Kokomo’s current city limits.

Blunt remarks aimed at annexation opponents and the lack of city-county cooperation marked the 30-minute address, the third of Goodnight’s term, which comes after a year of 15 percent unemployment in the City of Firsts.

But the centerpiece of the address was a call to establish a formal city-county commission to examine duplication of government services.

A provision of the Kernan-Shepard report on local government efficiency — whose recommendations Goodnight regularly advocates in a leadership role with the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns — the idea of the citizen-led, non-binding efficiency commission has received little traction in Indiana since the Indiana General Assembly agreed to the idea in 2006.

Monday, Goodnight listed seven specific areas, from township government and school consolidation to the fact the city and county have separate SWAT teams, where he suggested a commission might find efficiencies.

Hearkening back to the township school consolidations of 1948-1950, Goodnight said “we must question why a county our size maintains five separate school systems, with five separate maintenance garages and five separate custodial staffs.”

“High school basketball sectionals just ended, and if it were up to some in our community, the New London Quakers would have faced the Clay Township Brickies in the first game of this year’s first round,” Goodnight quipped.

His most pointed comments were more notable for what Goodnight left out than what he said.

Speaking close to the 25th anniversary of the city’s last involuntary annexation, Goodnight said “I have said this for two years, and I’ll say it again: Annexation is vital to the future of our community.”

Reminding the audience of the often-contentious annexations of the Country Club Hills, Vinton Woods and Maple Crest subdivisions, Goodnight said Kokomo would be “insignificant on a statewide level” without those past decisions.

He thanked several former local elected officials who voted for past annexations, including former mayors Steve Daily and Jim Trobaugh, as well as his 2007 election opponent, Rick Hamilton.

He also proceeded to thank the six current Kokomo Common Council members who have consistently supported the East Side and West Side annexations, excluding Council members Cindy Sanders, R-5th, Kevin Summers, R-At Large, and Bob Cameron, D-2nd.

“Every single city councilperson, in 1976, 1978 and 1985 — every Democrat and every Republican — stood up for the citizens of Kokomo and supported annexation,” Goodnight said. “These former councils showed leadership. They did not make the issue controversial, political or personal.”

Goodnight also issued a call for local elected leaders to wait until 2011 — a city election year — to make political points.

After the speech, Cameron said Goodnight’s exclusion of three council members instantly made his speech political.

“If he’s talking about not entering politics into it, then what’s he doing right there?” Cameron said, adding he thought Goodnight’s remarks a “low, cheap, blow.”

Beyond the call for a joint commission, Goodnight’s speech contained other surprises, including an announcement that the Kokomo firefighters union has agreed to a two-year contract extension with no pay raises for members.

He also announced the city’s first employee health clinic, to be run by Novia Care Clinics, will open next week in the former Kokomo Early Learning Center building.

Goodnight partially described the clinic as a way to help offset pay freezes, and he asked the audience to applaud city employees for their work during a two-year span when the city cut more than 12 percent of its work force.

Of the future, Goodnight said, “History has called on us to make the tough choices.”

“I know ‘change’ is an overused word these days. And I know it’s a word that many people fear. Some of us would be perfectly happy doing nothing,” Goodnight said.

“Those folks assume that if we do nothing, nothing will change ... I can give you this guarantee: The way things are, and the way they were are no longer options.”