Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Saved for posterity "Letters to the Editor"


Not willing to sacrifice safety


I hope Commissioner Duffy's colleagues join her in her support of Sheriff Cameron's budget.
The safety of our community and every family in it is at risk if further cuts are made. To reduce the budget further will mean layoffs. That, in turn, will mean increased response times.

Please ask yourself, "How long am I willing to wait for a deputy when I call 911?" Then ask, "Am I willing to take the risk that he or she might get there too late?"

I am asking everyone in Charlotte County to contact commissioners and deliver this message: We are willing to sacrifice many services due to the county's budget problems, but our safety is not one of them.

Jeff Jubenville

Port Charlotte


Why are Charlotte costs so high?


Having lived in Charlotte County for about 15 years, I have watched the typical government costs per voter rise by absurd annual rates with the new benefits provided bearing little relationship to same.

The Sheriff's Office is a blazing example of this, with new facilities and new vehicles of which four or more can show up at a fender bender. Meanwhile, sheriff's vehicles are observed watching red light runners,

speeders and no signal lane changers without any action. These visible situations are hopefully offset by more effective efforts elsewhere.

The voter outrage has dwindled to only an occasional outburst or some success at the polls in electing new players. This apathy is a sad reflection on all of us and something I hope the current commissioners and sheriff have the guts to change. Throw in the current economic

situation and one wonders how the current commissioners and sheriff can look into a mirror and be proud of their inaction.

As to the current sheriff's budget situation, using the sheriff's numbers and the current populations for Charlotte, Sarasota and Lee counties, the cost per capita for the sheriff's budget are: Charlotte, $390 per capita; Sarasota, $232 per capita; Lee, $264 per capita.

It appears that considerable fat exists in county government, especially within the Sheriff's Department. Once again, this voter is asking why.

Mike Reinhard

Port Charlotte

My thoughts: Let's see.. Charlotte spends $390 per capita, while Sarasota spends $232 per capita. Yet! Sarasota County handled four of the 9-1-1 calls regarding Denise superbly, while Charlotte County only handled one and well.... we all know by now what happened to Denise. In any case, it boggles the mind. And Mr. or Deputy Jubenville (I seem to remember seeing his name in the IA and he works for the CCSO, my bad if I'm wrong but I don't think I am) has the audacity to bring up 9-1-1 in his letter. I don't normally cuss all I can say is WTF?

Also in the news this past week was Sheriff Cameron helping a hapless boat while out boating himself. And he arrested two robbers while off duty when they ran a stop sign. What a guy! All he needs now is an "S" on his chest. I would love to see the Sun write a story on just how much this cast of characters gets paid. How much vacation time they get and any other perks they receive. Because the night Denise died they couldn't afford to pay an operator over time to watch the BOLO machine. Yet I hear and would love to have it verified that Bill Cameron is the highest paid Charlotte County employee. Hate to sound bitter but..... something stinks.

Again, all my opinions are my own and just a release of anger and frustration I feel. But Charlotte County really does need to wake up.

The Suns editorial today:


Growth in sheriff budget must stop

OUR POSITION: Sheriff's Office spending must be reined in.

Public safety is a basic function of local government. The men and women who protect and serve the residents of Charlotte County deserve and have our respect and admiration for the difficult and often dangerous work they do. But as work continues on next year's budget, it is clear to us that the growth of the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office budget has to stop and the department's spending aligned with fiscal realities.

Over the past few years, taxpayers have revolted against rising local government spending. Budget cuts forced by legislative fiat and exacerbated by revenue losses due to the collapse of the housing market have taken a significant toll on county government. This year alone, the commission slashed $50 million in operational costs and capital projects from the county budget.

Yet the sheriff's office budget since 2004 has risen 48.5 percent, from $40.5 million to $60 million. Over the same period, the population of the county has actually fallen, from about 157,000 to about 150,000.

The sheriff's budget is made up of three elements, including law enforcement, courts and corrections. The corrections element is actually a county function that the commission contracts out to the sheriff. The construction of a new county jail and its current expansion have contributed to the growth of the sheriff's budget, so for the purposes of this analysis, we have backed out jail operational costs.

The result? The sheriff's office budget has increased by a higher percentage. From 2004 to 2008, it has ballooned by 53 percent, or $15.1 million, from $28.5 million to $43.6 million.

Earlier this month, Sheriff Bill Cameron offered to trim 2 percent from his budget in response to a request from the commission to find 15 percent in cuts. Recently the commission voted 3-2 to reject that $58.6 million proposed budget. It remains to be seen whether the stalemate will be settled here or in Tallahassee, where Cameron could appeal to the governor if the commission holds its ground.

The rise in the budget is attributable to two initiatives undertaken by Cameron's predecessor, John Davenport, and continued upon Cameron's election in 2008: pay raises and hiring. We have supported the effort to bring officer pay in line with other area departments, so we will focus on the latter issue. Both Davenport and Cameron have been seeking a ratio of 2 officers per 1,000 residents. The current ratio is 1.8 officers per 1,000 residents.

The figure is arbitrary and obviously costly. Along Florida's Gulf Coast, only Collier County surpasses the ratio, while counties like Hillsborough (1.5), Pasco (1.3) and Sarasota (1.6) fall well short. According to the Department of Justice, the average ratio for areas with populations between 100,000 and 250,000 is 1.9.

The local ratio distorts reality because it includes the population for the entire county, but excludes the 37 police officers in Punta Gorda, where the sheriff's office performs only limited law enforcement duties.

We take public safety very seriously and have no doubt Sheriff Cameron is pursuing policies he believes best achieves our common goal. But the commission is correct to finally tighten the reins on spending in the sheriff's office and we encourage the board to stand firm.