Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Pork as "Protection"

Chalk up another local pork barrel project masquerading under the guise of "security spending." First, it was the tank that would protect Annapolis from the famed Al Quaeda Panzer Division. That was $1.4 million down the drain. Now, the County is applying for a $670,000 federal "grant" to buy a special boat that will allegedly "patrol Anne Arundel County waterways" attempting to "detect biological or chemical attacks and respond to nuclear explosions." According to Cathy Vitale, whose husband is a firefighter, "the boat will benefit the County." Sure it will. Sounds like a delightful place to have fundraisers.

Now first things first. County taxpayers foot the bill for federal "grants" just as surely as they do for the money the County spends, it's just that it gets to go to Washington first, and get mingled with the dollars from taxpayers in the other 50 states. If one considers this a waste of our tax money, we certainly shouldn't be burning the dollars of Montanans and Californians on it either. And, it is a waste.

The County already has a fire boat, the Lady Anne, that "patrols during major events like fireworks, sailboat races and the Bay Bridge swim." That would seem to mean that the other 362 days a year, it's free to putter up the Magothy, Severn, and South, looking for ill-intentioned ne'er do wells. Is it? If so, I've never seen it happen.

The ridiculousness of this whole episode is compounded by the fact that the County Department of Inspections and Permits is still relying on citizens, rather than its own inspectors, to catch violations along the waterfront, because it lacks the will or the money to purchase an inspection craft to patrol the most environmentally sensitive areas in the County, its 480 miles of shoreline.

So, while we're off asking for federal handouts for fire boats to sniff the trail of unlikely boogey men, we continue to allow the very real destruction of our County's natural resources on a daily basis for want of the ability to provide real monitoring.

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