So Which Way Is It Sheriff?

It’s becoming clear that Okaloosa County Sheriff Larry Ashley is becoming a master of doublespeak.

After I attended the county commission meeting on July 19, there are more questions than answers about why the Sheriff’s Office costs so much.

When questioned by the commission he seemed very defensive and deflecting rather than answering clearly and directly.

In one breath he runs the most transparent office in the state, in the next, however, he can’t understand what an itemized list of expenditures is and why anyone could possibly want such a thing. He even questions whether it’s required of him by statute to provide an itemized list (of course it does).

Even if his expenditures were not required, after all that has happened with disgraced former Sheriff Charlie Morris, you’d think Ashley would provide them anyway.

Let’s clear the air real quick and define expenditure. It is payment of cash or cash-equivalent for goods or services, or a charge against available funds in settlement of an obligation as evidenced by an invoice, receipt, voucher, or other such document. It is commonly referred to as an actual.

This is pretty plain stuff, but he still didn’t understand the request from the commissioners. The sheriff’s repeated remark was basically “what are you looking for? Maybe we can help you find it.” The answer is simple; an itemized list of expenditures.

He also said he would provide “any” information that was requested from him.

Then why hasn’t the OCSO provided the LPOC (Libertarian Party of Okaloosa County) with requested information for the development of a Destin Police Department?

For weeks information has not been forthcoming about calls for service, about how many private contracts does the OCSO and/or any of its deputies have inside Destin city limits, and the revenue generated thereby and its distribution.

I haven’t even received an acknowledgement that they are even considering the request. Now that I think about it, I would like to know what these numbers are countywide. And I’ll bet I’m not the only one.

In one breath Sheriff Ashley says his per-capita costs to the citizens of the county are one of the lowest in the state, but in the next breath it’s a real burden and he needs more patrols and the equipment and manpower to go with it.

In one breath, his department is doing great and is on the right track, and yet violent crime has risen more than 20 percent in the county. It has fallen in the rest of the state for the last four years running.

This is the question sheriff, which way is it? Is this a safe and wonderful beach community that is a dream come true to live in? Or, a dangerous and violent place where crime is on the rise and you are powerless to do anything about it without more money and double the manpower?

There is a lot more to this budget review, and thankfully everyone can check it out for themselves at http://okaloosacountyfl.iqm2.com/Citizens/Default.aspx.

Will the Sheriff’s department provide an itemized list of expenditures? Will it also reveal the private contract information, at least for the east district?

I would also encourage everyone to go to: http://www.libertarianpoc.org/, and checkout the proposal made to the city of Destin for a Destin PD.

 

Sky Monteith is a resident of the City of Destin and Secretary of the Libertarian Party of Okaloosa County.

Ed Braddy Presentation at the Emerald Grande Hotel July 2011

The New Ms Jean Weber

On Saturday, June 18th 2011, Ms. Jean Weber took her ailing mother to the airport so she could go see relations in Michigan.

Her mother was elderly, frail, and battling illness. She had to wear special undergarments because her age and infirmities made self control difficult. Travel is hard for her. She could not walk far enough to make it through an airport scanner. But she was determined to see her family in Michigan. With the help of her daughter, Jean, she would get through it somehow. For her part, Jean felt a daughter’s love and wanted her mom to get on her way in as little discomfort as possible.

Jean knew about airport security, but she didn’t worry. After all, this is Okaloosa; this is home.

Out of earshot, she watched as her mother was frisked by the TSA. She saw how rudely and hard the strangers placed their hands. It worried Jean because she knew how easily her mother bruised.

But something else was wrong. Her mother was shuffled out of view to a separate room. After some time a TSA agent came out and unceremoniously gave Jean an edict. In order to get on a plane her mother would have to remove her diaper for inspection.

Jean couldn’t believe it.

Jean’s Mom wasn’t offended. She was tired. She came from that generation that saw true hard times, and accepted official imposition in stride; maybe too much in stride. Seeing her family in Michigan is what mattered.

But to Jean, a heartfelt departure had turned kafkaesque. She had to physically assist her mom. Just getting to a restroom was a chore, and once there she had to help mom intimately disrobe for the TSA bureaucrats.

The inspectors told her she had a choice, but Jean knew she really didn’t. If you don’t comply, you don’t fly. There is no crime, judge or jury involved. There is no discussion of compensation for monetary loss or the fourth amendment. The TSA even claims, in court, the privilege to strip search anyone.

The emotion was too much. Jean came out of the bathroom crying. In the ridiculous shuffle of bags, tickets, wheelchair, jackets and removed undergarments, she misplaced the pass that allowed her to accompany her mom in the TSA “secure areas.” Ever helpful, a TSA agent told Jean she displayed “unusual behavior” by crying and not having a pass. Jean was subjected to an even more rigorous physical inspection as a result.

By now this process had taken a long time, and the aircraft departure was very near. Jean’s mom was still far from the gangway, and there was little time. Jean was still being questioned and frisked, so she asked that her mom be escorted to the plane.

As she watched her mom depart flanked by the TSA, she thought to herself that one of the last memories she would hold between them was this demeaning inspection.

Jean says her friends would laugh at the thought that she was complaining against the TSA. She is a private person, and minds her own business. She doesn’t get involved in “political” topics.

This event changed her. She has a new view of what it means to be an American.

Ms Jean said when she was a kid she used to watch the show “Davy Crockett.” She remembered a quote from that show, “Make sure you are right. Then go ahead.”

Ms Jean has filed a local complaint with the TSA over this incident, and she plans to file a national one as well.

Personally, I am not reassured by a complaint form.

Our government has forced us to argue for things that should be self evident, such as the fourth amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure, the concept of innocent until proven guilty, and the rule of law for everyone including government officials. To me, it is as if leaders in government have lost their senses.

The Sheriff of Okaloosa County should enforce the laws of Florida, especially those relating to battery and lewd and lascivious molestation, and arrest the TSA agents responsible for the acts perpetrated against Ms Jean’s mom.

Only then will this madness end.

Okaloosa’s Complacent County Commission

Pete Blome addressed the Board of County Commissioners for Okaloosa County 17 May 2011 at the meeting where the budget for the Mid Bay Bridge Authority, a Florida Special District, gets reviewed and approved by the Commissioners IAW Law 2000-411. The County Commissioners in the past have routinely approved the bridge budget without public discussion, and they did so here as well by unanimous vote.

It is Pete’s opinion this Authority had the wrong financial plan from its inception. Instead of paying off bridge infrastructure and passing the savings to the bridge users, the Mid Bay Bridge Authority has steadily added an average $10 million a year in debt since its creation in 1994. Toll have steadily gone up, and when a large expansion project, called the bypass, is finished tolls may rise as high as $9 round trip to get from Crestview to Destin. Like the proverbial cash cow, bridge users have been set up to pay high tolls forever.

Pete isn’t the only one who sees the poor planning of the Mid Bay Bridge Authority. Fitch’s Bond service recently gave Bridge Bonds a BBB rating, one step above junk.

The Okaloosa Board of County Commissioners allowed Pete 3 minutes to address them.

Thank you, sirs, for allowing me to speak.

Since I have only a few moments, I would like to ask this board to consider a few questions about the Mid Bay Bridge Authority that were not brought up at this meeting.

How does an increased toll across the bridge, as high as $9 when the bypass road is complete, help anyone in Okaloosa County? It doesn’t.

When will the bridge debt be paid off? Never.

Who believes automobile traffic is going to increase to levels to make this Bridge Authority solvent?

It has gone down for 5 years in row. I certainly don’t.

If this Authority can’t remain solvent, what are you, as the approving authority of the Bridge Budget, going to do about it? Will it be to simply pass off the costs of the bridge to the whole state of Florida as Senator Gaetz has suggested?

This board has routinely rubberstamped budgets submitted by the Bridge Authority. Who has this served? Certainly not the citizens of Okaloosa.

The Mid Bay Bridge Authority is not a minor matter. It will represent $350 million dollars in debt before it is finished. Yearly tolls for a regular user will be greater than most people’s property taxes. One out of ten Okaloosans need this bridge for their livelihood, and they are purposefully being bled dry by government through bad planning and apathy.

The MBBA thought about everything except the people it is meant to serve.

And this course of events has been enabled by this board.

Thank you.

Destin Shows America’s Problem

On June 20th I went to the Destin City Council Meeting to help my friend and colleague, Sky Monteith, to create a less expensive police contract than that offered by Sheriff Larry Ashley of Okaloosa County.

What I came away with was a picture, in miniature, of why our country is in as bad a situation as it is.

The matter had nothing to do with the police. The issue was trash. That evening there was to be a vote by the Destin City Council to give Waste Management (WM) Corporation an exclusive five year contract. The City of Destin would act as bill collector and put trash payments on the tax bill. It exchange for this “improvement,” the move was expected to save money for citizens.

But the room full of Destin residents realized that not only was the ability to choose trash services being lost, but a person could now lose their home in a tax certificate sale for trash payments in arrears.

Citizen after citizen stood up and objected to this collusion between government and a private corporation. One businessman pointed out how he must now pay advance trash fees for the whole year. Others talked about how there weren’t enough exemptions for undeveloped properties. Some thought that condo owners would not as liable for trash fees as home owners because their associations took care of the trash bill. One asked if the City would be the point of contact to solve trash problems now (it will be).

There were advocates. Councilmember Larry Hines said thousands are not paying their garbage bills now, or are freeloading off of others. It was the “efficient” thing to do. The audience asked, quite rightfully, why should the City Council collect fees for a private corporation?

“What is clear is we’ve done a bad job communicating about this issue,” Councilmember Jim Bagby said, but he threw his support for the contract anyway. It would save money, and besides, the matter had been under consideration for more than a year.

Council members Larry Williges and Dewey Destin objected. To their credit, both thought it wasn’t the role of government to determine peoples trash handlers for them. Councilmember Destin suggested that there would be no way to renegotiate service terms once the contract was signed. Councilman Williges showed that the proposed government intervention would only save about a dollar and change per household per month.

As the swapping of views and explanations between Council Members continued, it was far from clear that the Council itself agreed on what the details of the proposed ordinance were.

Just as in our USA at large, when the time came to vote, the voices for small government did not win.

Instead of free market competition, trash collection in Destin is now mandated and centrally controlled by the government.

If service is poor, you will have to call a government bureaucrat instead of the trash man.

Waste Management gained a virtual monopoly with the help of government.

Concerned citizens advocating the free market were voted down by government.

The government created a system of special privileges based on whether a person is a homeowner, a condo owner, a senior citizen, or an owner of undeveloped property.

The government became the bill collector for a private corporation.

At a stroke government made citizens liable for unpaid taxes instead of unpaid trash bills.

A year’s worth of bureaucratic inertia worked against reconsidering the measure.

And, in the end, the Council was not even in complete agreement among themselves as to the ordinances’ details.

It is for reasons like these that I think it is not the purpose of government to own businesses, or to grant favors, but to protect individual rights.

I am also sure in the next five years Waste Management will seek a rate increase and get it.

The savings will be ephemeral, the loss of choice and economic opportunity will be real, and this government intervention will only lead to more intervention. Just watch.

It is the dysfunctional America we live in today.

LPOC Booth at the 4th of July Festivities 2011 on the Harbor Walk at the Emerald Grande Destin (Lee Jackson Pictured)