Commissioner message to voters: Let them eat crow!

Sheriff Kelly Rowe’s revelation last week that county commissioners have demanded he cut $2.53 million from last year’s $15.285 million budget may not have been the biggest shock of the week, but it in terms of ill-motives, it may rank as the outrage of the year.

Six weeks into the budget process the sheriff was surprised by orders directing him to cut last year’s budget by 16.6 percent, a move Rowe says will put citizens and deputies alike in greater jeopardy. These draconian cuts are matched by no other department in the county; for that matter, there is no record of the Sheriff’s Office ever being ravaged like this.

The $800,000 ‘saved’ this year by purchasing no vehicles will cost the county $2.25 million next year.

County commissioners can count on at least $6 million in additional tax dollars this year even if the tax rate is kept at the Effective Rate, something these commissioners have never before felt compelled to do until this year.

It’s no secret Sheriff Rowe was not supportive of commissioner campaigns in the last election. He did not endorse the incumbents and the two running for reelection lost. Only Precinct 1 Commissioner Bill McCay is left of those who voted for a pay raise more radical even than Kelly Rowe’s budget cuts.

Lubbock County Courthouse
Lubbock County Courthouse

Cutting Rowe’s budget is the prerogative of county commissioners. Putting citizens and law enforcement in danger because you are mad over election results is not.

There is no budget crisis. Rather, it’s a crisis the commissioners are trying to create. Sheriff Rowe gives one easy to understand example. The sheriff’s department is equipment heavy, like all law enforcement agencies. Regular replacement of vehicles is critical. Commissioners have ordered no capital expenditures this year. According to Rowe, the $800,000 “saved” this year by purchasing no vehicles will cost the county $2.25 million next year.

‘We are going to cut everything back and force the incoming commissioners to raise taxes and eat crow.’

Instant budget crisis. They’re planting fiscal land mines for the incoming Commissioners Court. But commissioners seem to forget it’s the voters they are going to war against.

Rowe says when he explained to one commissioner the costly impact of these cuts in successive years, the commissioner let the Sheriff know he was well aware of the damage he was doing.

“We are going to cut everything back and force the incoming commissioners to raise taxes and eat crow,” he said to Rowe.

Remarkable!  Ordinarily a discussion of “why” is fruitless because we’re not mind-readers, but it’s different when man confesses a malicious motive.  His may not be every commissioner’s  rationale, but it was an eloquent expression of his own malevolent heart. It’s not the incoming commissioners he’s mad with; he’s mad with the voters who repudiated his policies.

Rowe didn’t name the commissioner publicly, but it isn’t hard to know who said it. There’s only one commissioner who’d throw his weight around like that; a man who’s never wrong and seldom doubtful.

The voters were unhappy with the pay raises … but commissioners refuse to listen.

If you want to create a budget crisis, why cut the public safety budget? It’s pure politics. Selfish, vindictive politics.

The commissioners’ public response is they have heard the voice of the voters.

But it is a disingenuous response at best, and willful ignorance in its context. The voters were unhappy with the pay raises. They’ve made their point three times now, with Sedeno, Jones and Heinrich, but commissioners refuse to listen.

Any budget cuts made before commissioners cut their own salary are more likely to be retribution than good government. Whether commissioners choose to lower their salary will be the indicator of sincerity, or the lack thereof, for this budget season. 

A drunken constable on the road may not be nearly so dangerous to Lubbock County citizens as a county commissioner with a grudge.

If being childish and petulant is absolutely necessary, cut the sheriff’s salary, but don’t take away a deputy’s weapons, body armor and radio communications then tell us it’s for our own good.

What commissioners are doing with Lubbock County’s budget comes very close to malfeasance in office for what it will cost us next year alone.

The lesson here? A drunken constable behind the wheel may not be nearly so dangerous to Lubbock County citizens as a county commissioner with a grudge.