County to State: Secure This

Categories: News

It was a fairly simply instruction.

Last July, Governor Rick Perry's office wrote a letter to Dallas County Judge Margaret Keliher recommending that the Commissioners Court spend its Homeland Security dollars on--wait for it--homeland security. "The County should re-evaluate the priority of Homeland Security funding to focus on the ability of the county to provide adequate command, control and communication during a potential catastrophic event," read the letter from Jack Colley, the chief of the state's emergency management division.


Now the county is drafting a letter, which Margaret Keliher is not expected to sign, that will basically tell the state to mind its own business.


In his letter, Colley was objecting to the county's use of federal grant dollars to prop up its disastrous new Adult Information System computer program that proved its worth to the law and order community by continually losing track of defendants in the jail. As a result, people were staying behind bars for weeks after they completed their sentences. In addition, money spent on AIS and its companion Juvenile Information System had the added misfortune of swiping funding away from the county's ability to respond to a disaster.


Nothing like a perfect storm of bad management to make you unable to respond to a real-life perfect storm. At least, according to the state.


"The disproportional funding to systems such as the Juvenile Information System and the Adult Information System at the expense of the County to provide adequate continuity to respond to a severe incident should be re-evaluated," says the state's audit.


Apparently, some folks at the county disagree. The letter, dated August 22 and drafted on behalf of the county commisioners, says the commissioners "do not plan to re-allocate our existing homeland security grand dollars." The letter was not finalized as of Friday evening, so we don't know exactly why the county thinks the state's recommendations are not reasonable, but expect this letter to further inflame the Commissioners Court.


On one side, you have Keliher and Commissioner John Wiley Price, who are very reluctant to spend any additional funding on AIS, much less Homeland Security dollars, in light of the well-documented glitches in the system--glitches that still exist more than 18 months after it was put into place On the other side is Commissioner Mike Cantrell, who is partly responsible for AIS and has become increasingly defensive about it as the evidence against his brainchild mounts. And Cantrell is joined by fellow Republicans Maurine Dickey and Ken Mayfield, who form a recurring anti-Keliher bloc, at least on this issue. It's a very inspiring spectacle: a debate over homeland security driven by personal and political rivalries. --Matt Pulle


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