Monday, February 02, 2009

Will Jackson County Legislative Arrogance Kill COMBAT? - Day 57 of the Jackson County Ethics Crisis

One of the joys of being a Jackson County legislator is the thrill of dishing out buckets of pork through the COMBAT tax. About $21 million dollars gets doled out to support over 80 anti-drug programs, and every nickel of it goes through a legislature that refuses local ethical oversight.

Personally, I'm in favor of the COMBAT tax, despite its many flaws in implementation, but many taxpayers will not support its renewal if the Jackson County legislature refuses to answer to the Jackson County ethics code. Already, the Legislature has been caught funneling $1000 to an anti-crime activist to put a sticker on his car (no, really, I'm serious), so, in a down economy, who can blame people for opting out of a slush fund for unaccountable legislators?

Voters vote on COMBAT renewal in 2010. In 2003, the .25% COMBAT sales tax was renewed with a margin of 64-36% (not quite the "more than" 2:1 margin claimed on the COMBAT website, but what's a little lie on a taxpayer funded website in a county governed by legislators with so little regard for ethics?), but times have changed, and, unless the legislators drop their sneaky exemption from local ethics oversight, they will bring the COMBAT tax down with them.

Jackson Countians have demonstrated that they will support a good tax if they believe it is well-administered. Unfortunately for those of us who support the good things accomplished by the COMBAT tax, the image of the Jackson County legislature will be horribly tarnished by that point. Last week, I spoke with a bright, well-connected, well-liked woman in Henry Rizzo's at-large district and Dan Tarwater's local district, and she is thinking of filing for office. If she goes after either one of them, she would make ethics the theme of her campaign. Who could blame her? It's a natural.

If the Jackson County legislators really, truly believe that the COMBAT tax is a worthwhile endeavor, and accomplishes good things, then they owe it to their constituents to give it the best renewal chance possible. To do that, they must reverse their exemption from local enforcement of the Jackson County Ethics Code.

If they fail to do so, Jackson Countians will have every right to assume the worst possible reason that they want to spend $21 million without ethical oversight, and vote the tax down.

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Anonymous Lance said...

I'll apologize in advance for such a long comment but this issue is a pet peeve of mine.

If this group has the audacity to hand out $1,000 to Alonzo Washington for pseudo-services then I'm sure that there is much more dirt to be found. Perhaps one way to stop this kind of crookery is for the entire itemized COMBAT budget to be posted online. How hard could it be? Think any of them would propose doing that? TGR seems pretty honest so maybe she would be so bold. I won't hold my breath, though. Talk of transparency is usually just that and apparently the Jackson County legislature doesn't even talk about transparency so they must feel pretty secure in their spots.

I hope that your prediction is correct and that they "accidentally" kill COMBAT but I don't think it will happen. The propaganda in support of an ever expanding drug war is pretty effective and it is embraced by Republicans and Democrats alike. Even you apparently think that prohibition is a good idea since you said that you support COMBAT.

The shenanigans with COMBAT exemplify the corruption attendant to our official policy of prohibition. Drug prohibition itself doesn't solve (or even mitigate) any of the societal problems that might be related to the existence of controlled substances. In fact it exacerbates those problems, but most importantly it causes inflated prices in the black-market which, as your post indicates, can be quite profitable to those involved on the "good" side of the drug war as well as those who sell legal and illegal drugs. I used to wonder why the so-called "progressive" American politicians don't have the courage to take a reasonable approach to this issue, but it is clear that the status quo provides them access to big pools of money to hand out to their friends.

Since Michael Phelps is a pot smoker does that mean that he didn't win as many gold medals as he would have otherwise? Wouldn't it have been great if he would have refused to apologize a la Radley Balko's A Letter I’d Like To See (But Won’t)?

We need to abandon our foolish policy of prohibition and acknowledge that intervention in the drug market causes more harm than good.

2/02/2009 1:29 PM  
Blogger Hyperblogal said...

If the Combat vote was held today, I would vote NO... for the very reasons you cited in your piece. It's a political slush fund without oversight.... of course that's probably the legislature's thinking too

2/02/2009 1:32 PM  
Anonymous No Ethics = No COMBAT said...

No Ethics = No COMBAT

Dan please send the message that people will work against COMBAT unless there is a strong ethics code on the books covering the County Legislature before COMBAT comes up for a vote again.

I have already received a call from a woman fundraising for the COMBAT campaign, and she told me that there were plans to put the renewal on the August 09 ballot, a year early!

Cutting off the COMBAT goody bag would be just what these arrogant bastards deserve. Not one of them could win reelection without having the COMBAT money to pass around.

2/02/2009 10:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All this is BS, at least as far as easter Jac is concerned.

In eastern Jac, a certain group of lawyers call the shots.

And it ain't just based on their "skills" Lance.

And YOU and I both KNOW it, although you will never admit it here.

Muni Court Hack

2/03/2009 6:00 AM  
Anonymous Lance said...

Muni Court Hack,

I wish I had as much insight into local politics as you think I have. I agree that possession of "skills" is the least important attribute in a political candidate around here, so I'm not sure exactly what it is that you think I will "never admit" here.

Since you don't use your real name when commenting, why pull your punches? Spell it out for me. Thanks.

2/03/2009 12:56 PM  

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