Government at all levels has gone completely off the rails demanding even more of our money to feed its insatiable appetite for growth providing services for which we neither ask nor for which we are allowed to vote.
President Obama and the secular progressives masquerading as the Democrat Party drastically upped the ante begun under President George W. Bush of increasing government services and expanding the government workforce. Bush labored under the illusion that compassionate conservatism would attract voters through targeted expansion of government such as Medicare coverage of prescription drugs despite the fact that no one was really demanding such coverage. Obama just went dog nuts crazy expanding the federal government and spending money like a drunken sailor on shore leave.
As with any organization, direction flows from the top. The example set at the federal level has trickled down to several states controlled by Democrats and even to the local level. California, New York, and Illinois are all basket cases, while Republican governors in Wisconsin and Michigan are implementing common sense reforms to attract business expansion like their counterparts in Indiana and New Jersey. Trickling down to the local level, this trend has managed to manifest itself in as conservative a place as Lincoln Parish.
The deficit spending by the Lincoln Parish Fire Protection District in which Fire Chief Dennis Ford has raided the Capital Equipment fund for the last several years to pay firemen in a system whose fee structure was only designed to support the volunteer system approved by voters is one example of this mindset. The Capital Equipment Fund has been reduced from $2.3 million to $1.6 million as Ford and LPFD Board Chairman Tom Thompson have sought to transform the department into a paid force greatly expanded from its original mandate. State Senator Bob Kostelka has seen fit to weigh in on the matter having only Thompson’s biased side of the story for reference.
Firemen caught in the crossfire of the departmental mismanagement of Ford and Thompson are having to endure the public’s frustration and are not helping their cause by getting involved in the dispute. These firemen should take a hard look at Ford’s $112,000 annual salary before publicly describing instances of firemen having to accept public assistance to make ends meet. The citizens of Lincoln Parish do not owe any public employee a living, and demands to the LPFD Board to refrain from making the necessary personnel cuts to balance the budget also shift public opinion against their cause. Chief Ford hired firemen without having the revenue stream available to sustain their employment, and the LPFD Board is being made to look like the bad guys in this unfolding drama for merely following the law and attempting to act responsibly with public funds.
Another example is the Lincoln Parish Detention Center Commission’s willful neglect of detention center maintenance for the past several years in order to divert maintenance funds into other projects such as Sheriff Mike Stone’s Law Enforcement Complex. This neglect has resulted in an order by the State Fire Marshall for the LPDC Commission to produce a plan for emergency repairs in the next fifteen days or have the DC closed. Commission members adopted an emergency resolution at their last meeting detailing a long list of repairs including those mandated by the State Fire Marshall, but left unanswered how much these repairs will cost and from where these funds will come. Note that the Police Jury and the city of Ruston are responsible for DC costs in an 85/15 split. Also note that Sheriff Stone, while boasting of state grants secured for his pet project, has not bothered to ask for one grant to cover DC repairs.
It is easy to resign oneself to a feeling of helplessness when the problem resides at the federal level and you accept that your vote is small in the grand scheme of things. After all, Washington is a long way from Lincoln Parish, and those guys play with numbers having so many zeros that they fail to seem real after a while. When this sort of recklessness with public finances happens in Lincoln Parish and presents the real possibility that our taxes might have to be increased, it tends to get our attention. Police Jury members are much more accessible than congressmen.
Simply put, it is a lack of oversight which has allowed these problems to fester. It is much easier to keep one’s eye on the various boards appointed by the Police Jury to insure that they remain focused on the straight and narrow than to endure the long and frustrating process of regaining control, then repairing the damage that has been done. Jurors are making the moves to regain control of the situation, but years of neglected oversight by previous Police Juries will require time for authority to be reestablished. Entrenched interests are difficult to pry out and will fight vigorously to retain their hold on power. One needs to look no further than the town of Jonesboro, LA for proof of this in action.
We can help this process along by encouraging our Jury members to continue their reform efforts and demanding that such financial improprieties are brought to heel. We can also remember that those who work for government generally work hard and do a good job, but are not responsible for the current situation and should not be singled out for retribution. As frustrating as it may be, these government workers should refrain from becoming involved in a dispute between voters and those who manage public resources.