Feel the Bite

editorial-logo3As we begin the short slide into the new year, it is time to consider the things that we are doing right and those that need a little work. For me, this year could be defined as the year of strange priorities. There are many, many things that I believe are important for a community to function. As a member of the press, I certainly believe in transparent government. We have all felt the sting of deals done in the shadows, and it is important to make sure that the light is on the people who make decisions that impact each and every one of us. What bothers me is that we appear to be so consumed with making sure that no deals are done that might impact economic growth that we missed a potential safety crisis that was nothing if not clandestine and against an already negotiated contract with our government. I am speaking of the recent changes at Mountain View Youth Development Center. It is now under private contract, and the fencing is coming down, but the caliber of criminal that is housed in the facility has not improved. So, the State brought in a private firm, in a less-than-transparent manner, and took down the only facet of security that stands between some of the most vulnerable in our society, our children and elderly, and danger. While we fret and debate about economic development in a community that has an unemployment rate of 3%, the fence is coming down at Mountain View.

Some would have us believe that the inmates are simply kids with problems. The truth is that a large portion of those ‘kids” are violent offenders. The State has assured the locals that the inmates will not be in our public schools. They also assured us that there would be no violent offenders at the facility when we first negotiated with them years ago, and look where that has gotten us. A few of our local elected officials toured the site, and some, including the Jefferson County Mayor, were vocal about concerns regarding public safety, but at the end of the day we still sit unprotected and waiting for the shoe to drop.

I want transparent government, but that does not begin and end with economic development. We have developed tunnel vision in Jefferson County, and it is high time that we look at what is going on around us. It is hard to imagine an issue that is more impacting than public safety. For years we have debated transparency in government, all in regard to the Chamber of Commerce, EDA, or the IDB, and it is fine to hold anyone who spends to the people’s money to high standards. But, we have been so myopically concerned with debating and defending that we have let the real issue of transparency slide by unannounced. The situation at Mountain View should be raising eyebrows and illiciting responses from every elected official, from the Senate and House to the County Commission and City Councils. That it is not even a conversation at any table is beyond scary. I know that there were Joint meetings and safety was discussed, but in the end the fence still comes down. How is that in the best interest of the community? What it feels like is a pat on the head while walking the dog, and it did not have to be that way. We, the people, held the cards in the form of a contract, and it makes me wonder just why we are negotiating with community safety. So, while we are busy chasing each other’s shadow, the wolf snuck in wearing sheep’s clothing. I wonder how long it will take before we feel the bite?

Source: K. Depew, News Director

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