September 6, 2011 By admin HCU consultant explains unification review process The (Elizabethtown) News-Enterprise Guest column by Luke B. Schmidt, consultant to Hardin County United Article originally posted to The News-Enterprise Web site: http://www.thenewsenterprise.com/content/hcu-consultant-explains-unification-review-process Hardin County’s citizens have a unique opportunity. Hardin County has the opportunity to unify its existing good local government and become one of the largest and most progressive communities in Kentucky. However, before the citizens will be able to consider and vote on whether or not the community should unify, a specific plan first must be developed. Under Kentucky law, this plan only can be developed by what is called the unification review commission. Let’s be clear: Only the voters of Hardin County can consider and approve unified government. Hardin County United cannot impose unified government. Hardin Fiscal Court and the six city councils cannot approve unified government. But in order to get to the heart of the matter, HCU is asking each of the local government entities to approve an ordinance to create the unification review commission. Approval of the ordinance does not mean that Fiscal Court or any of the city councils are endorsing (or creating) unified government. It simply means that they are willing to give voters the opportunity to consider unified government at the ballot box. Once approved and sworn in, commission members will do the hard work of actually developing a detailed plan. The commission will hold a series of meetings (all open to the public) to develop, step-by-step, the plan for a unified Hardin County. This plan will spell out just exactly how Hardin County could be governed under a unified form of government. Upon completion, the plan will be presented to voters. Residents will have ample opportunity to read and study the plan and decide for themselves as to whether unified government is the direction that the community should take going forward. Again, only the voters of Hardin County can make this decision – not HCU or the local government entities. As the consultant to HCU, it has been my privilege during the past 14 months to work with HCU’s governance subcommittee as it has carefully reviewed and considered the issue of unified government for Hardin County. During this time, the subcommittee has met with representatives of various groups, including law enforcement, fire protection, Fort Knox, state elected officials as well as federally elected officials. We received valuable input from each group. In addition, and as part of the fact-finding process, the governance subcommittee met with former Lexington Mayor Foster Pettit and former Louisville Metro Mayor Jerry Abramson, both of whom served prior to and following the unification of each of those cities. Much of what we have learned can be found by visiting HCU’s website (www.hcu.lbschmidt.com) and by clicking on the large blue button on the home page which will take you to the special section that HCU has created on unified government, including frequently asked questions. The News-Enterprise recently asked in an editorial “Can it hurt to talk about something new?” HCU believes that now is a good time for the community to engage in a fully open discussion about unified government and its potential benefits. This begins with the creation of the unification review commission and its development of a plan. There really isn’t any risk whatsoever to the community when it comes to developing the plan and learning what unified government could look like. The process ends with the voters who will decide if the plan is in the community’s best interest. Luke B. Schmidt is president of Louisville-based L.B. Schmidt & Associates and is serving as a consultant to Hardin County United.