Sometimes on the edit page, we get into a bit of a rut. There are so many ways in which our inadequate state government is underfunded that for simplicity’s sake we tend to fall back on certain standbys when we gripe about our Legislature’s failure to set priorities in budgeting. When we cite a litany of neglect, we usually fall on:
- Mental Health — A favorite example is how the lack of state resources for the mentally ill unnecessarily overcrowd our jails and hospital emergency rooms.
- Prisons — We keep locking up more and more people, and providing less and less resources even to guard, much less rehabilitate, them.
- Highways — We let them crumble, and we don’t enforce speed limits or other laws.
- Schools — Too many districts, no follow-through on the promise to do more in early childhood, the neglect of the most troubled and impoverished rural districts, etc.
And that’s a nice overview, as far as it goes. It’s fine for just a representation in passing of the overall problem. We refer to such examples when we’re complaining about everything from poorly considered tax cuts to spending on things the state doesn’t need to spend on.
But we could write about other examples as well, and probably should more often. I was reminded of this by new SLED Chief Reggie Lloyd when he spoke to the Columbia Rotary yesterday. He talked about how everywhere he’s been in either state or federal government, he always seemed to arrive just as the budget screws were being applied.
The wiretaps he spoke of, and which were cited in the brief in today’s paper, were related to this. SLED has the equipment and the authority to do wiretaps in drug and gang investigations. But the people haven’t been trained in how to do it, so the equipment has sat there (to the delight of libertarians, no doubt, but not to those of us who love Big Brother).
But my favorite anecdote was when he was talking about the department’s Huey. When I heard that, I thought maybe I heard wrong: They’re still flying a Huey? But that wasn’t the half of it. This particular Huey was salvaged from the rice paddy it once crashed into in Vietnam. Now, it’s being flown by pilots who weren’t yet born then. Not long ago, SLED did some sort of joint thing with some folks from the Coast Guard, and they all wanted to see the Huey. They had heard about it, but found it hard to believe.