Friday, February 06, 2009

COMBAT, Crime and Ethics - Day 61 of the Jackson County Ethics Blackout

In 1989, the COMmunity Backed Anti-Drug Tax (COMBAT) was approved by Jackson County voters with a mission of "Making substance abuse history...". 2 decades have passed, and literally hundreds of millions of tax dollars have been "made history", but substance abuse appears undiminished as a problem in our community.

Who is in charge of this humongous pot of money that has failed utterly to accomplish its mission for two decades, and supports such lofty goals as paying a favored citizen a thousand dollar to put a sticker on his car (yes, I'm serious)? The Jackson County legislature, the same group of arrogant politicians who have passed an ethics code that can be enforced against everyone but themselves.

Does anyone else here think the spending of twenty million tax dollars without an ethics code is a good idea?

Oh, it gets worse. Much worse.

The COMBAT slush fund gets handled by a three person committee on the legislature. Guess who's on it? Hint: the majority has a rap sheet.

Here is the composition of sterling characters spending twenty million of your tax dollars in 2009 while insisting they should not be held to the Jackson County Ethics Code. The Chair is Dan Tarwater. As far as I know, Dan Tarwater does not have a criminal record, unlike his two friends on the committee. But, as if to assure that he has "street cred" with his two criminal friends, Dan did manage to get into a fistfight with a fellow legislator over money. Unsavory, but unconvicted.

The other two people that the Jackson County legislature has put in charge of spending twenty million tax dollars are actually, literally criminals. James Tindall was convicted of income tax evasion, though he managed to get off on the bribery charges. Henry Rizzo had to go to the Supreme Court to even get on the ballot, because he had "pled guilty to a charge of providing a false statement to a financial institution in 1991".

I think it's great that Rizzo and Tindall have returned to public life and won the voters' trust after breaking the law in matters involving the handling of money.

But does it make any sense at all to trust them to be the majority in a committee that controls twenty million tax dollars? Does it raise some concern in anyone's mind that all three members of this committee voted in favor of exempting themselves from enforcement of the Jackson County Ethics Code?

Please take a moment today and drop an email to members of the Jackson County legislators and tell them that you think that anyone in charge of spending twenty million of your dollars ought to be subject to enforcement of an ethics code, especially if they have a rap sheet. Here are their email addresses:
Scott Burnett -
Theresa Garza Ruiz -
Henry Rizzo -
Fred Arbanas -
James Tindall -
Dennis Waits -
Dan Tarwater -
Greg Grounds -
Bob Spence -
Remember to be polite, but firm. All we want is for them to reverse their exemption from the Jackson County Ethics Commission.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

that has failed utterly to accomplish its mission for two decades

I don't know where the whole 20 million goes, but I do know that a portion goes to local groups that provide counseling and substance abuse help.

I know many of the people/counselors that provide these services and work their butts off to help people.

It is pretty pompous of you to say all the work they have done has "failed utterly."

2/06/2009 11:11 AM  
Anonymous COMBAT veteran said...

No, anonymous, Dan made no such charge. The problem is with the mission, not with the work done. Dan and I talked about this exact point the other day after his first post about COMBAT - the COMBAT money spent has not been all been wasted, or even an outrageous percentage of it. But can anyone deny that, if the mission was to make substance abuse history, COMBAT has "failed utterly to accomplish its mission for two decades"?

If the mission were simply to support some good programs, and encourage great people to help people, the program would have achieved its mission.

Again, the problem is with the mission (which is really a vision, but that's wonk talk), and Dan is right.

2/06/2009 11:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When you have a mission statement that promises the moon, no reasonable person would expect it to deliver the moon.

Under your rules, all of LBJ's great society work, Medicare, Medicaid, National Endowment for the Arts, etc, would be "an utter failure", solely because the great society had a rather ambitious mission statement.

The Great Society rests on abundance and liberty for all. It demands an end to poverty and racial injustice, to which we are totally committed in our time. But that is just the beginning.

Poverty and racial injustice have not been ended in our time. But only right wingers would contend that it had "utterly failed."

If you have knowledge of mismanagement, then we would all better to have it brought out. Oversight, is a good thing.

But to say that COMBAT has utterly failed, because it has not 100% wiped out substance abuse is just childish and ridiculous.

2/06/2009 12:17 PM  
Blogger Phil Cardarella said...

Has the COMBAT tax been a massive waste of money? Absolutely. Every nickel spent on law enforcement has been a total waste of money, just like the rest of the War on (American Kids Who Use) Drugs. Cops chasing dopers & handing out DARE t-shirts. (Sometimes cops chasing dopers wearing DARE t-shirts!) A WPA for aging cops & assistant prosecutors.

BUT... and this is a very big BUT... COMBAT has also funded a lot of real drug treatment and has funded the diversionary Drug Court -- a mechanism for treating some of those arrested without burdening them with criminal convictions that will haunt them throughout their lives. This is a very good thing.

Would we be better served by spending ALL the money on real education and treatment and expanded Drug Courts? Sure. And If Dan & I are elected Counsuls for the same year, we will. But, the sensible do not rule the zoo, and the reality is that if they do not get their cut of the action, law enforcement will not support the package.

So, we have to spend five dollars to get two dollars value -- part of the price of Prohibition. But we do get some very important value out of COMBAT. Hundreds of our fellow citizens are drug-free and criminal-record free, and we are all the better for that.

2/06/2009 3:43 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

I kind of agree with my Anonymous critic, and wish I had phrased that line differently.

I was, as COMBAT veteran points out, completely accurate in my statement, but the point is a minor one. The mission is poorly drafted, but the goals are fine, and much of the work is excellent and laudable, even if it utterly fails to accomplish an unrealistic goal. To focus on the unrealistic stated mission was unnecessary, and a bit of a distraction from my real point. Thank you, Anonymous, for pointing out my flawed writing.

The real point, and the one I should have kept my focus on, is that it is foolish to hand $20+ million to a committee with a majority that has a rap sheet, and is dodging ethical accountability. I think we can all agree on that point.

2/06/2009 6:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Too many elected leaders are people who cannot make it (because of lack of competency or ethics) in the real world. Rizzo is a prime example.

I wish all of our elected leaders were the best society had to offer. Too often, our "leaders" are the worst.

When all is said and done, could any son be proud of a father like that?

2/06/2009 8:36 PM  
Blogger craig said...

I am impressed Dan.
Not only am I impressed with your tenacity on this subject, but with your ability to admit that you phrased something wrong today. I understood your point, and gave you the benifit of the doubt, but it was big of you to admit your mistake. Hell, I may even support you if you were to run (can't vote for you, not in my district). I may not agree with you much politically, but I respect your tenacity and integrity.

2/06/2009 8:46 PM  
Anonymous No Ethics Code/No COMBAT said...

No Ethics = No Combat

Ask Rizzo what My Arts does to earn the big money he sends to the program from COMBAT -- and ask what the little brunette's name is.

Sanders knows it is happening and does NOTHING to stop it.

2/06/2009 8:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My Dear Friend ... I think I would be a tad more security aware. These are not street thugs you are dealing with and this is not nickle and dime issues. Be careful.

2/06/2009 9:44 PM  
Blogger Hyperblogal said...

I think if there was more trust in the legislature there would be less doubt about Combat. Although, I must say I voted against it last time and will do so next time too simply because I don't have faith in the administration of the tax proceeds.

2/07/2009 11:43 PM  

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