Thursday, September 14, 2006

"Does Wayne Scott Want to Abolish the State Police?"

That's not our question, and it's not the exact words from the person who asked it (you can read the full version below), but it's starting to look like a pretty worthwhile query to make: what the hell is Wayne Scott trying to do to our state police force? Forgive our broken record, but it's becoming a little frustrating that ethical lapses continue to emanate from the Majority Leader's office, and we're going to keep on making the case until people begin to notice. And so here we go!

Last week, goobernor Ted sent a letter to the director of state Administrative Services, directing that DAS halt a study on whether to cut highway positions from the Oregon State Police, transferring those duties to county sherrifs:
In my judgment, this study is a waste of state resources, and it need not continue. I hereby direct you to halt all activities associated with the study.

My public safety policy staff has worked closely with Oregon State Police since the 2005 legislative session, and has analyzed the needs of the OSP as they relate to the heightened challenge of patrolling Oregon’s roads and highways. That challenge becomes more acute in view of illegal drug-trafficking, which occurs mainly along our state’s highways as criminals import illegal drugs from out of state.

My staff and I have received numerous indications from county sheriffs throughout the state concerning the advisability of this study. The vast majority of sheriffs believe that we should preserve and upgrade the highway patrol function of the OSP. Their concerns are understandable: imposing patrol responsibilities on local governments would inflict serious financial strains on already-strapped sheriffs’ budgets, and would hamper sheriffs’ efforts in other critical areas, such as ID theft investigation, drug enforcement and neighborhood patrols. [emph mine]
Pretty clear cut, right? Well, yes and no. In an internal memo, the state's Legislative Financial Officer wondered aloud whether the governor was fully within his authority to end the study. In the initial press release, Kulongoski's office mistakenly claimed that both staffers working on the study were DAS employees (an updated and corrected version of the release was distributed within 30 minutes). As the Officer, Ken Rocco, points out, one employee is actually on staff of LFO--which is under the charge of the Ways and Means Committee, rather than the Office of the Governor. And the Chair of Ways and Means? Wayne Scott.

Realizing that the non-partisan LFO staff was hesitant about ending its role in the study, Rep. Larry Galizio (HD35) made his own press release yesterday, backing Kulongoski's position and calling on the House and Senate leadership to direct the LFO to also desist:
[Noted Galizio in his letter,] "It is hard to imagine budget savings that could justify putting public safety in such jeopardy. The governor was right to end DAS participation in this ill conceived study. This is bad policy for Oregon all the way around, and I encourage you to direct LFO to end their participation immediately."

Methamphetamine use in Oregon has increased dramatically over the last several years, and meth-related crimes – particularly identity theft – are on the rise as well. “Law enforcement authorities recognize I-5 as one of the top five corridors for transporting illegal drugs into the country.” Rep. Galizio said. “So rather than reducing the presence of troopers on the road, we should strengthen it if we’re truly serious about fighting crime and drugs in Oregon.”
I might quibble with the characterization of meth use as "increasing dramatically," but the position is otherwise rock solid. And notice that Galizio doesn't mention Rocco's memo, refusing to drag the non-partisan staffer into a partisan debate.

Well, as we discovered this morning, Wayne Scott felt no such ethical constraint:
House Majority Leader Wayne Scott (R-Canby) today released a memo from Legislative Fiscal Officer Ken Rocco regarding Governor Ted Kulongoski’s directive to halt the Oregon State Police study.

Rep. Scott said Rocco’s nonpartisan analysis reveals the Governor made misleading statements about the cost and intent of the study. He said the Governor’s directive demonstrates unilateral action to undermine the Legislature and its work to find efficiencies in the executive branch.

“The Governor says he wants to work with the Legislature to improve Oregon, yet he continues to prefer politics over policy,” Rep. Scott said. “The Governor continually disregards legislative priorities, and for that reason he has earned few friends in the Legislature.” [emph mine, again]
Back to Galizio's office, in comments to LO today:
How much more hypocritical can a person be? I'm quite sure that if Ken Rocco thought it was a good idea for his memo to go public, he would have distributed it himself. But then this is nothing new. This is the same House Majority Leader who held up funding for the Coos Bay airport for no reason other than the fact that he didn't want to be embarrassed by voting no on a Democratic proposal to increase education funding.
Hey, thanks for reminding us about that airport thing! We'd almost (almost) forgotten about yet another episode of Scott's questionable ethics.

How does Scott's opponent, Democrat Mike Caudle, feel about all this? As far as studying whether to cut more OSP troopers goes, Caudle was literally a minute behind Ted in our inbox originally, deriding the study as wasteful and patently unnecessary. He had already laid out his intention to make an issue of Scott's outrageous position defunding state police, and the latest news about Scott's open defiance of the directive and intent to continue seeking cuts was apparently more than Caudle could bear:
"There are already 364 fewer Oregon State Police officer positions
than there were when Rep. Scott took office in 2003. Last year, a committee Rep. Scott chairs passed legislation eliminating 20 state trooper positions. Now Rep. Scott is fighting for a study examining how to cut more funding for the OSP. Does he plan on continuing this effort until the state police is abolished?"
It'd be one way to cut down on state police fatalities, I guess--and if we went from one trooper to zero on the Oregon Coast, we'd be spared the embarassment of appearing in the sequel to Fahrenheit 9/11. But I have to assume that the idea is flatly not going to appeal to voters in District 25, or District 39, or any district where sensible people outnumber wackjob government drowners and those who like their Majority Leader ethically questionable. So we say once again: traditional media, where are you? How many examples do you need?