Will Jackson County Legislative Arrogance Kill COMBAT? – Day 57 of the Jackson County Ethics Crisis

One of the joys of being a Jackson County legislator is the thrill of dishing out buckets of pork through the COMBAT tax. About $21 million dollars gets doled out to support over 80 anti-drug programs, and every nickel of it goes through a legislature that refuses local ethical oversight.

Personally, I’m in favor of the COMBAT tax, despite its many flaws in implementation, but many taxpayers will not support its renewal if the Jackson County legislature refuses to answer to the Jackson County ethics code. Already, the Legislature has been caught funneling $1000 to an anti-crime activist to put a sticker on his car (no, really, I’m serious), so, in a down economy, who can blame people for opting out of a slush fund for unaccountable legislators?

Voters vote on COMBAT renewal in 2010. In 2003, the .25% COMBAT sales tax was renewed with a margin of 64-36% (not quite the “more than” 2:1 margin claimed on the COMBAT website, but what’s a little lie on a taxpayer funded website in a county governed by legislators with so little regard for ethics?), but times have changed, and, unless the legislators drop their sneaky exemption from local ethics oversight, they will bring the COMBAT tax down with them.

Jackson Countians have demonstrated that they will support a good tax if they believe it is well-administered. Unfortunately for those of us who support the good things accomplished by the COMBAT tax, the image of the Jackson County legislature will be horribly tarnished by that point. Last week, I spoke with a bright, well-connected, well-liked woman in Henry Rizzo’s at-large district and Dan Tarwater’s local district, and she is thinking of filing for office. If she goes after either one of them, she would make ethics the theme of her campaign. Who could blame her? It’s a natural.

If the Jackson County legislators really, truly believe that the COMBAT tax is a worthwhile endeavor, and accomplishes good things, then they owe it to their constituents to give it the best renewal chance possible. To do that, they must reverse their exemption from local enforcement of the Jackson County Ethics Code.

If they fail to do so, Jackson Countians will have every right to assume the worst possible reason that they want to spend $21 million without ethical oversight, and vote the tax down.

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