With Jolly temporarily blinded by his love-goggles, Grits wanted to hone in particularly on the utterly unrealistic discussion of the budget from the challenger. Ironically, his stances mirror positions taken and promises made by Garcia when he first ran for Sheriff, most of which crashed upon the rocky shores of economic reality almost immediately after he took office. Here's the segment (in full) of BJ's post on the budget:
About the budget, I’ve mentioned before (here and here) that most of the primary candidates think that the budget must be increased. Mr. Guthrie was a bit more nuanced in our discussion than he was in the forums – during the forums, he stated that his relationship with Harris County Commissioners Court would result in a larger budget. I asked him point blank if that meant that the Court was playing partisan politics and not giving Sheriff Garcia the resources he needed. His answer was no, that the budget under Garcia had grown and would continue to grow. What he meant was that the Court would see that he was prioritizing the resources better than Garcia and they would be more apt to give him what he asked for versus them seeing that Garcia was building up his command staff and not boots on the ground.
A glaring example of what Sheriff Garcia has done was noted in the Houston Chronicle today in a report by Anita Hassan:
Also, county budget cuts have suspended testing in the auto theft division for now. But overall, testing can help to solve more crimes as well as prevent them, Wilson said.
Two things jump out at Grits here. First is Guthrie's utterly unrealistic portrayal of the budget, pretending that demoting a few senior commanders will allow him to put more "boots on the ground" at a time when the county is paying millions annually in overtime to staff the jail (which is the 800 lbs. gorilla dominating the Sheriff's budget). I replied thusly in the comments:“If you catch one of those guys (car burglars), you can prevent dozens of them over a period of months,” he said. “They are out there every single day driving those parking lots in every part of this city and county looking for targets. If you get one of them off the streets, there’s no telling how many you may have prevented.”I asked Mr. Guthrie about this report and he replied:
“Touch DNA is just one of many exciting new techniques now used to help solve crimes that were previously relegated to the “closed with no investigation” file. While the current Sheriff has created most of his own budgeting problems, cutting funding for programs that help put burglars behind bars is a poor choice for the taxpayers. Garcia could easily trim fat from his bloated command staff and instead put dollars to work solving crimes and putting more boots on the ground. That would have a real impact of improving public safety in Harris County.” Louis GuthrieWe talked about the budget for quite some time. I was impressed with his detailed knowledge of how the department works, down to the supplies issued each deputy. I was a bit surprised by this because his highest rank in the department had been Lieutenant and budgeting is typically done by the Captains. He told me that he took it upon himself as a Lt. to break down the numbers passed down by his Captain because he wanted to be certain that taxpayer money was being utilized efficiently.
Voters may not recall, but Sheriff Garcia rode into office four years ago promising to boost patrols in unincorporated parts of the county, then discovered after ascending to the job that his main responsibility is managing the jail and every extra dollar he could lay his hands on had to go to pay jailers' overtime. If Guthrie replaces him, four years from now he'll face a challenger making the same BS criticisms and promises because what he's suggesting is not real and cannot happen given current budget realities. These are not partisan issues, nor even ideological ones. They are difficult, practical economic and management questions on which neither Guthrie nor any other candidate may legitimately claim higher ground. Like Garcia when he made the same promises in 2008, either Guthrie doesn't understand the big picture or he's just blowing smoke up voters' collective ass.
Finally, BJ references an interesting story out of the Houston Chronicle on using "touch DNA" to solve property crimes, criticizing Garcia for not using the technology for car burglaries after the Commissioners Court cut the program's budget. I understand identifying something voters don't like (car burglaries) and blaming one's opponent for it is a typical campaign tactic, but the critique misunderstands who controls the budget strings at the Sheriff's office. The county commissioners court makes that call, not him. Besides, it's difficult to overstate the extent to which using touch DNA in nonviolent offenses would quickly overwhelm crime labs and property rooms. As Grits wrote in January, "The advent of 'touch DNA' and the expansion of DNA evidence to nonviolent offenses like burglary mean the near-term growth potential for DNA examiners may be limited only by how much state and local governments are willing to pay for them." In Harris County, for the foreseeable future, those demands for funds must get in line behind overtime spending for jailers. Changing the party designation of the Sheriff from D to R wouldn't alter that dynamic in the slightest.
RELATED: Here's Charles Kuffner's interview with incumbent Sheriff Adrian Garcia.