Sheriff's Request Misses the Boat

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This week’s issue of CityBeat, which hits the streets today, features a column about Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis Jr. and his request to use a $98,000 federal grant to buy another speedboat.

At least two of the Hamilton County commissioners — Democrats David Pepper and Todd Portune — were ready to accept the money for the boat but their Republican colleague, Greg Hartmann, disagreed. He said spending any money, federal or otherwise, on vehicles while the county is laying off workers and cutting back services is inappropriate.—-

After the public began weighing in on the debate and mostly sided with Hartmann, commissioners delayed a vote planned for this week. The matter now will be decided after a 9:30 a.m. hearing on June 15 at the county administrative building, Pepper said.

People from across the political spectrum have criticized how the federal government awards Homeland Security grants, which ostensibly are supposed to help high-risk areas handle terrorist attacks or natural disasters. Instead, much of it appears to be classic pork-barrel spending that’s doled out based less on actual need and more on currying political favor.

Last summer, the conservative Heritage Foundation urged Congress to reassess how the grants were allocated, alleging the Department of Homeland Security used “shady statistics” to justify the expenses.

“The increase of eligible urban areas leads to a dilution of finite funds, spreading more money to more cities while accomplishing less,” the foundation’s Matt A. Mayer wrote. “Yet, the number of eligible urban areas has doubled since 2003, from 30 urban areas to 60 today.”

Mayer added, “This continued swelling of eligible urban areas only guarantees that finite resources will be spread too thinly to have the needed impact in the time desired and in the places where the risk is the highest. Of the 14 new urban areas, not a single one received an allocation greater than any of the urban areas in (Fiscal Year) 2007, yet they collected almost $26 million total, which could have been used in higher risk urban areas.

“Historically, urban areas received at least $4 million each, thus ensuring a meaningful level of work could be accomplished. Not one of the 14 urban areas received $4 million. In fact, 12 received less than $2 million each.”

Does the Sheriff’s Office need another boat to patrol the Ohio River when other agencies including the Cincinnati Police Department, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources already have watercraft to use in the same 50-mile stretch? Commissioners are waiting on a report from the county’s Emergency Management Agency before making a decision

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