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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Local Politics: Budget causes Public Services to be Cut

In today's NWI Times, I got to see an example of politically expeditious action about eliminating 27 part-time public defenders. Story here.

My response to the NWI Times:
Public Defender Misses The Point of Public Service

The Times recent praise of public defender/councilman Tom O’Donnell is overblown. While he can be commended for his “sacrifice” of $20,300 in assured state pay plus benefits to reduce budgetary shortfalls, the undermining of the fragile scales of justice received little scrutiny.

That, with the reduction from 27 part-time to 5 full-time public defenders sounds optimal, the shifting of this workload would seemingly defy sound operation. If each of those part-timers assisted 15 hours/week, the 5 full-time representatives would work 81 hours to maintain the same caseloads. If a Times article from the recent past is to be believed, one PD, Dolores Aylesworth, carried 272 cases. This leaves aside competency.

Maybe more telling is O’Donnell’s desires:
“My goal to do better public service overrides my desire to be a public
defender.”
Serving an indigent alleged criminal may not seem like much of a public service, sir, but what other public service has the possibility to set free an innocent person, and serve a more profound, greater good? The cards are stacked heavily against true criminals going free with policemen, probation, forensics, prosecutors, criminal psychologists and judges fighting on behalf of victims. Public defender services are easy to dismiss; but rarely, without a human price to be paid.

Overall, it is necessary to cut the budget. I feel it is unlikely that those with no voice afforded them will get fairness in this round of assessment. So I lent mine.

(Not to be included in response to the Times)
P.S. I would seriously like The Times to do more thorough research into the budget. For example: I noticed zero reductions in prosecutor staff was mentioned? If the goal is to cut excess, I can'timagine every prosecutor is at their wit's end.

Police force, fire, administrative help, vehicles sold for recoup, assets underutilized or ignored but could be swap/sold to other municipalities, are just for starters.

$15 million should be across the board - no dept. left alone.

A finance committee is politically motivated. Take care of buddies...barter over protection of each other's area of control. Don't rock the boat.

It was too easy to just say, "cut the PD staff." They are lawyers that want to spend less time on poor people who made poorer choices.

A councilman isn't losing his job, but gaining a stronger foothold in the political psychology of the locals. "He gave up his $20,000" for us. Bullshit. He gained $20,000 in his next political campaign - via donations and free media...from you.

Cynical I am, but right I also am.
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