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Sending a message

Sunday, May 9, 2004

The Sikeston Department of Public Safety conducted a substantial warrant round-up early Friday morning with excellent results. For starters, no one was hurt in the early-morning round-up. Also, 30 individuals were arrested on for a wide range of crimes including drug trafficking, robbery and assault. This is the type of pro-active law enforcement that our community wants and deserves. I think it's safe to assume that more warrant round-ups will be planned in the months ahead.

One aspect of this action that parallels an on-going issue is housing. The Sikeston Housing Authority must take the information available from Public Safety and match it against those who live in subsidized housing here. If a person in the round-up is charged with a crime of violence or one involving drugs, they can immediately be denied public housing assistance. Rest assured, this newspaper will follow up this week to assure that the Housing Authority is abiding by its own policy of one-strike removal. We sincerely feel that Housing officials will view these arrests as violations and remove any of these residents who might reside in Section 8 or other subsidized housing.

We have said for years that the way to reduce the criminal element here is exactly the activities that occurred Friday. Strong effective law enforcement combined with strict enforcement of housing policies will force some people here to seek housing elsewhere. By golly, it's the law and we have the law on our side on this issue. If we fail to enforce the rules and regulations, we'll pay an enormous price.

The signal must be sent on an on-going basis. We will not tolerate a criminal element to call Sikeston their home. If taxpayers subsidize their housing, it can easily be removed. If that forces them to move elsewhere, so be it. As Public Safety officials said Friday, many of these residents don't have a permanent address, they simply move from house to house. At some point, believe me, they stay in some form of subsidized housing. Once they cross that threshold, we have the tools at our disposal to remove a Section 8 voucher or evict someone from a housing project. If that policy is consistently enforced, the message will circulate and the criminal element will move where the enforcement is not as strict. As a result, our problem is removed.

++++

On a completely separate front, the state of Missouri issued a report this week critical of some state agencies for not applying for five federal grant programs worth $3.5 million. The grants were available to address an array of social issues like gang violence and early childhood education.

My point is this. If a state agency fails to seek a federal grant, perhaps it's because they lack an effective plan to use that money. And if that's the case, then so be it.

I'm sick and tired of public officials who fail to recognize that taxpayer dollars - whether it's state or federal - are just that, money provided by taxpayers. Because it's available doesn't automatically mean it has to be spent.

It seems we have this attitude that any government money is somehow free to spend as we see fit. Well, someone worked long and hard somewhere to provide that $3.5 million in federal money and if it does go unspent, then perhaps someday the tax burden on hard-working families will be reduced.

I view an unspent federal grant as a good thing. It means in some instances that the money is either not needed or perhaps would be spent in some fruitless effort simply because it's available. We need to end this attitude that some faceless, nameless source has provided these free dollars. And eventually, only those deserving programs will be funded and the burden on taxpayers will be lighter. That's effective government.



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