The Right Response: Thoughts on Signal police, government waste

The Right Response: Thoughts on Signal police, government waste

June 4th, 2013 in Opinion Free Press

Before answering a few of your emails, letters, Tweets and online comments, I want to sincerely thank all of the readers who send in or post comments and questions. Whether you agree or disagree with an article that appears on the Free Press opinion page, your views give me an opportunity to learn which topics you care about and how you feel about issues of the day. Your input impacts what appears on this page and helps the Free Press page to act as a community forum for discussion, rather than just a collection of watered-down editorials and dull syndicated columns, which so many opinion pages have become.

That said, it's time to address some of your questions and comments, starting with the deluge of responses I received in reaction to a Sat. May 18 editorial headlined: "Signal police should show some restraint." The editorial criticized the Signal Mountain police for arresting 17 teens for drinking at a house party, more arrests for underage drinking than all other Hamilton County police had in 2012.

If you don't enforce the law on Signal, isn't the message that high-socioeconomic communities are not treated the same as working-class neighborhoods? Are you saying that police in more affluent areas should not enforce the laws? What would your response have been if these arrests had taken place in some poor community?

These questions reflect the majority of responses to the editorial and contain two basic premises: 1.) Teens on Signal Mountain should be treated the same as teens in other areas of Hamilton County, and 2.) Cops should stick it to rich kids.

What the questions fail to recognize is that the whole point of the editorial is that Signal Mountain teens should be treated exactly the same as every other kid in Hamilton County - not worse. Since teens in other cities in Hamilton County are almost never arrested for underage drinking, teens in Signal Mountain should also almost never be arrested for underage drinking.

That's not the case, however, Signal Mountain teens are almost 50 times more likely to be arrested for underage drinking than Chattanooga teens - and that's not because Signal Mountain teenagers are 50 times more likely to drink.

That fact, which should be troubling to all readers, didn't seem to bother many folks. Why? Because many people in our area who would never think it was right to discriminate against someone because of their race, gender, religion or sexual orientation think its perfectly fine to act like an intolerant bigot when it comes to people who can afford to live in a nice neighborhood.

If poor kids had been arrested for underage drinking, the response would've been, "other kids in Hamilton County aren't usually arrested for drinking under age, why should these kids be targeted?" But when Signal Mountain teens who happen to attend prep schools were arrested, I was roundly attacked for daring to suggest that the police should show a little restraint.

For a community so wrapped up in teachings about forgiveness, grace and compassion, it is disappointing that so few people are willing to show those traits when it comes to something as benign as teen drinking, just because the people involved may have been born to successful parents.

If you don't think Signal Mountain cops should arrest teens for underage drinking, how should they handle drunk, loud teens having a house party?

The same way every other police department in Hamilton County generally responds to teen drinking: with stern warnings, frank discussions with parents and safe rides home.

Why don't you just push for a lower drinking age if underage drinking is such a minor issue?

Good idea. I'll do that. Until the early 1980s, the drinking age was 18 in many states. The people who benefitted from the lower drinking ages are now functioning adults and productive members of society, so it must not have been all bad. If an 18-year-old can vote and fight in the military, he or she should be able to drink, too.

The owner of the Atlanta Falcons wants taxpayers to help fund a new stadium.

The owner of the Atlanta Falcons wants taxpayers...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

In your "Heroes and Zeros" editorial, you applaud Common Cause Georgia. Don't you know that Common Cause is a liberal group with ties to George Soros? Why would a conservative editorial page praise such a group?

While Common Cause is generally supportive of stances opposed to limited government, free enterprise and logic, Common Cause Georgia is leading an effort that conservatives and liberals alike can agree on. The group is working to prevent tax dollars from being used to subsidize replacing the Atlanta Falcons' perfectly good stadium with a newer perfectly good stadium.

If the Falcons' billionaire owner, Arthur Blank, a co-founder of The Home Depot, wants his team to have a new stadium, he should build it, rather than forcing taxpayers into subsidizing over 20 percent of the project.

The article "Small examples of waste raise bigger concerns" condemns government agencies for wasting a few hundred dollars. Why worry about such piddling amounts?

Because they are our dollars, and every single one of my dollars and every single one of your dollars are important. Therefore they shouldn't be wasted by careless government officials. If the bureaucrats and office holders we rely on to spend our tax dollars wisely are willing to blow money on things like fancy personalized Christmas cards, late fees for unpaid bills and unnecessarily filling up government vehicles with expensive premium gas, why should they be trusted with more money?

As a show that they respect our hard-earned money, the individuals responsible for the wasteful spending highlighted by the editorial - Harold DePriest at EPB, Meigs County Sheriff Jackie Melton and the Bradley County Finance Department - should reimburse taxpayers (and, in EPB's case, electric customers) for the money they wasted.

- Drew Johnson

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