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Sheriff Bob White should listen to his talk about bullying

Pasco Sheriff Bob White recently stood with the school superintendent at a news conference to deliver an antibullying message aimed at children.

Then last week, White called his own news conference.

And acted like a bully.

The sheriff's targets were five county commissioners. He derisively called them "career politicians'' even though only two of the five have been in office longer than White's 10 years. He promised to take them to the mattress. He promised to take them to school.

The sheriff was so full of promises, you would have thought him a Boy Scout. Except there are no merit badges for bellicosity and bloviating.

Bob White wants more money. He wants to hire 28 more deputies to patrol Holiday-Trinity and Regency Park-Embassy Hills. He has been saying this since June.

Unfortunately, there is little money to give. The county's general revenue fund is down $14 million from a year ago after three consecutive years of double-digit declines in the tax rolls. The sheriff's law enforcement and detention spending now account for nearly two-thirds of all the county property taxes in the general fund.

White identified a potential pot of money. He originally said to sell the west side jail for $10 million. Then he said to remodel it and cancel a planned building for data processing and the elections supervisor, or as the sheriff called it, "the $13 million monument to bureaucracy.''

White has lots of ideas, but they are all akin to liquidating current assets and worrying about paying future bills at some other time. It's a dangerous budgeting tactic and, if followed, could lead to laying off newly hired deputies down the road when escalating personnel costs outpace new revenue.

The sheriff met the commission face-to-face Tuesday morning, but this school yard fight was over before it began. Commissioners, at the suggestion of Commissioner Ted Schrader, let White cool his heels for 30 extra minutes while they handed out six resolutions recognizing retiring employees, fire prevention, domestic violence awareness, artists for humanity and public health department nurses. The board was in no hurry to hear what White had to say.

The contradictions started soon afterward. White told the board it had never fully funded law enforcement, pointing out that multiple sheriffs before him have pleaded for additional personnel.

"You have neglected this for years,'' White said.

But, when the commission's staff attempted to highlight the Sheriff's Office spending since White's election in 2000, the sheriff told commissioners, "This is old news. It's very lame. It's archaic.''

Funny how history's relevancy is so unpredictable.

Budget director Mike Nurrenbrock told commissioners the sheriff's spending was up 62 percent since 2001 while at the same time, property taxes in the general fund grew just 46 percent. Nurrenbrock also highlighted the capital spending attributed to the Sheriff's Office during White's tenure including an expanded jail, an east side operations center and a forensics building.

"We have to have buildings,'' White said of his agency's work. "We have to have facilities to do that.''

Indeed. But apparently data processing and the elections supervisor do not.

White is in much the same position as his most recent predecessors. They might believe the community wants more law enforcement, but the community also wants to hang on to the contents of their wallets. Former Sheriff Lee Cannon attempted to stir up public support for new taxes for law enforcement and failed miserably.

White's unwilling to even try. He supported Amendment 1, the 2008 statewide referendum which added new exemptions for homesteaded properties and reduced the property tax money available for his department.

Over the summer, White suggested he could appeal the commission's budget decision to the governor and Cabinet as former Sheriffs Jim Gillum and John Short did in the 1980s. If White chooses that route, he better have more persuasive arguments than he presented Tuesday.

The bully couldn't even beat lame and archaic.

Sheriff Bob White should listen to his talk about bullying 10/05/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 5, 2010 6:09pm]

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