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Sun., Feb. 22, 2009

Smart Bombs

The urge to merge

When I became old enough to drive, I could get pulled over by the Clark County Sheriff’s Office and the police departments in Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Henderson. Later, those Nevada law enforcement agencies merged.

I’ve often wondered why more municipalities don’t merge government functions to gain efficiencies. Last week, Spokane County CEO Marshall Farnell looked up from a drooping bottom line and uttered the word “consolidation.” Spokane County Commissioner Mark Richard said, “If not the entire nugget, we should at least talk about a metropolitan police force.”

Makes sense to me. But since the latest talk is spurred by immediate budget concerns, it’s worth noting that consolidation in Clark County initially increased costs. The pre-merger departments had different salary levels, so workers making less got an equity pay raise. Other costs were incurred when uniforms, weapons, equipment and vehicles were unified.

Over a long period of time, consolidation would probably end up paying for itself, but if the goal is a quick budget fix, then what happened in Vegas should stay in Vegas.

Fear itself. You’d think with two wars and an economic meltdown there would be enough actual calamities to keep worriers occupied.

But, no, there’s the North American Union, a consolidation of governments from the United States, Canada and Mexico, with its secret superhighways and unifying currency called the amero. The last time I attended a public forum hosted by U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, it seemed half the questions were about Americans surrendering their sovereignty.

Then there’s the Freedom of Choice Act. This “bill” aims to codify the Roe v. Wade abortion decision into law. A chain e-mail notes “the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) is set to be signed if Congress passes it on January 21-22 of 2009.” Well, it’s Feb. 22 and no such legislation has been introduced. Nevertheless, the mythical bill has triggered a national postcard campaign.

Finally, there’s the purported re-emergence of The Fairness Doctrine. Just spin the radio dial, and you’ll probably land on a rant about how President Obama and the “Democrat Congress” are on the verge of reviving a law that would force programmers to offer dreaded opposing viewpoints. Obama said last summer that he’s against the doctrine. He said it again Wednesday.

But I’ll bet five ameros that we haven’t heard the last of it.

Smart Bombs is written by Associate Editor Gary Crooks and appears Wednesdays and Sundays on the Opinion page. Crooks can be reached at or at (509) 459-5026.

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