Tag: fairfax county

Gambling Raid in Baltimore

The Baltimore police must have solved the city’s violent crime problem. They’ve shifted resources to illegal gambling:

Baltimore County police arrested five men after an undercover detective infiltrated an illegal high-stakes poker game in Edgemere, records show.

Police say “Texas Hold ‘Em” games were held regularly at the Lynch Point Social Club in the 3100 block of Roger Road, where organizers were making as much as $1,500 in profit a night, according to charging documents.

After receiving a tip, officers conducted surveillance at the club and later sent an undercover detective inside, who participated in a game with a $65 buy-in. The detective played for hours — leaving after he lost all his chips, records show.

A tactical unit conducted a raid on the club Feb. 11, seizing poker chips, electronic gambling machines and a surveillance system, among other items. Forty-one people were inside at the time of the raid.

Posted at the Raidmap, where you can find similar “isolated incidents.” A December gambling raid in South Carolina turned into a gun fight when poker players mistook a SWAT team for armed robbers. The family of Sal Culosi, the Virginia optometrist killed in a 2006 gambling raid, just settled its lawsuit against Fairfax County for $2 million. Radley Balko has more on that tragedy here.

Jeff McKay: A Limp Rag Masquerading as a Terror Warrior

This afternoon I briefly attended a meeting of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board to comment on the question whether there should be random bag searches in the D.C. area’s subway system. A variety of other liberty loving D.C.-area residents spoke up against bag searches, noting the weakness of the practice in terms of security, the privacy consequences, and the insult to Metro riders in treating all as suspects. The chairman of the Riders Advisory Council asked that the program be suspended.

Along with restating the security weakness of random bag searches—it simply transfers risk from one station to another, from the subway to busses, or from the Metro system to other infrastructure—I emphasized the strategic consequences of the policy:

Terrorists try to instill fear and drive victim states to over-reaction. They try to knock us off our game. The appropriate response is not to give in to fear-based impulses. Obviously, we can and do secure what can cost-effectively be secured. And where infrastructure can’t be secured specifically, many other layers of security are protecting the society as a whole—aware people, ordinary law enforcement, targeted lawful investigation of terror suspects, and international intelligence and diplomatic efforts.

WMATA can play a part in our security, but in a very different way than by making a great show of desperately searching passengers. Refusing the bag search policy can signal to D.C. area residents and the nation that we are relatively secure, because we are. Al Qaeda is on the run, and the franchises it inspired are generally incompetent.

When America’s capital city abandons bag searching, it will be a small but important signal that terrorism doesn’t knock us off our game. Consistency in this message over time will weaken terrorism and ultimately reduce terror attacks from their already low numbers.

There will never be perfect security, but security measures that cost more than they benefit our security make us worse off, not better off. They make us victims of terrorism’s strategic logic.

Fairfax County Supervisor Jeff McKay disagrees. An alternate member of the WMATA board, he is the picture of the politician  in thrall to terrorism. During the discussion of the Riders Advisory Council report, he stated—as a moral obligation, no less—that he should assume the existence of substantial threats to the Metro system because some authorities claim secret knowledge to that effect.

Whether there are threats or not, this does not respond at all to the point that random bag searches would not address them. Again, they transfer risk from one Metro station to another, from Metro stations to Metro busses, or from the Metro system to other infrastructure in the D.C. area.

We often joke about politicians who say “something must be done; this is something; this must be done,” but when you see it live and in person, it’s really stupid.

McKay seemed to take righteous pride in abdicating his responsibility to understand basic security principles as they pertain to the Metro system. He did note the bind that the board is in. They’re damned if they do bag searches because of the complaints from the community, and they’re damned if they don’t because something bad might happen.

McKay’s choice is to spend the money of District-area governments and undercut the civil liberties of Metro riders so that, in the unlikely event a terror attack occurs, his political career is protected. He can say “I tried to stop it with bag searches.” Never mind that it was an ineffective measure.

McKay thinks he’s doing the right thing, but that doesn’t excuse his being a patsy to the terrorism strategy. He’s a limp rag, abdicating his security responsibility while pretending that he fights terrorism.

Federal Aid: 45 Years of Failure

Yesterday, the Washington Post reviewed the life of Phyllis McClure, who was an advocate for federal education spending in low-income neighborhoods.

Once an aspiring journalist, Ms. McClure joined the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund in 1969. She immediately used her penchant for muckraking to illuminate the widespread misuse of federal funds meant to boost educational opportunities for the country’s neediest students.

The money was part of the new Title I program, created under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. The slim volume that Ms. McClure wrote in 1969 with Ruby Martin – ‘Title I of ESEA: Is It Helping Poor Children?’ – showed how millions of dollars across the country were being used by school districts to make purchases – such as a Baptist church building in Detroit and 18 portable swimming pools in Memphis – that had little to do with helping impoverished students.

The authors charged that money meant for poor children was being used illegally by school districts as a welcome infusion of extra cash to meet overhead expenses, raise teacher pay and other such general aid. In addition, they wrote, districts were using Title I funds to continue racial segregation by offering black children free food, medical care, shoes and clothes as long as they remained in predominantly black schools.

That all sounds rather familiar–state and local governments misusing federal aid dollars. As I’ve written about at length, there was an explosion in federal aid for the states in the 1960s, with hundreds of new programs established. But huge problems developed almost immediately–excessive bureaucracy and paperwork, one-size-fits-all federal regulations stifling local innovation, and the inability of federal aid to actually solve any local problems. 

I live in Fairfax County, Virginia. The county receives about $15 million a year in federal “Title I” aid for disadvantaged schools–the program Ms. McClure was worried about. But Fairfax is the highest-income county in the nation! Why are hard-working middle-income taxpayers in, say, Ohio, paying for local schools in ultra-wealthy Fairfax?

Aside from the misallocation problem, academic evidence suggests that state and local governments mainly offset federal spending for poor schools by reducing their own spending on poor schools. Poor schools end up being no further ahead.

The federal aid system is crazy. Even if federal aid is a good idea in theory–and it isn’t–the central planners haven’t been able to make it work as they envisioned in more than four decades. The federal aid system has simply been a giant make-work project for the millions of well-paid federal/state/local administrators who handle all the paperwork and regulations.  

Even if federal aid was constitutional or it made any economic sense, it will never work efficiently. Aid will always be a more wasteful way of funding local activities than if local governments funded activities by themselves. Aid will always be politically misallocated by Congress. Aid will always involve top-down regulations from Washington that reduce local flexibility and innnovation. And aid will always undermine federalism and the American system of limited government.

It’s time to blow up the whole system.  Title 1 and all 800 other state aid programs should be repealed.

Fairfax Schools to Get More Money, District Claims Penury

Washington Post ed columnist/reporter Jay Mathews had a great post the other day in response to some WaPo coverage of supposedly catastrophic cuts to the Fairfax County school budget. He rightly notes, “the end-of-the-world reactions from Fairfax County parents in my colleague Petula Dvorak’s latest column are so divorced from reality as to be comical.”

Oh, it is funny, but not ha-ha funny. It’s more a makes-you-want-to-cry kind of funny. Consider:

  • Fairfax aims spend 1.4 percent more per-pupil in 2011 according to their Operating Fund total, which includes the vast majority of total spending and core services.*
  • Total per-pupil spending increased 20 percent in constant dollars between 2000 and 2010.
  • Using Washington Area Boards of Education (WABE) total expenditure figures, Fairfax spent over $15,300 per student in 2010. Per-pupil spending remains higher than in FY 2006.**

It is difficult to see how increasing the per-pupil budget in the midst of an economic crisis and no inflation can be construed by district officials as “dramatic spending reductions,” or “devastating.”

The Fairfax County school superintendent claims that nearly 600 positions will be cut. Why? Why do they need to cut hundreds of positions when their per-pupil budget is increasing? From what baseline is he measuring these cuts?

These facts and statements do not reconcile.  I have emails and voicemails in to officials, and I am eager to hear how they explain all of this.

*Their proposed budget document does not seem to contain an identifiable total expenditure figure. The Fund totals cannot be summed because of unnoted double-counting — because, well, who cares how much we’re spending overall, right? A query has been sent to officials, who need additional time to determine if their budget document can be used to calculate total spending for the budget and to provide me with a total spending figure.

**The WABE listed per-pupil figure leaves out some k-12 spending and provides a number that is significantly less than that in more comprehensive state records or that can be compiled from the district budgets, so I’ve divide the total expenditures listed on p.23 by the enrollment to get the real total per-pupil spending.

Hungry for Taxes

The Washington Post reports:

Would you gladly pay more for a cheeseburger today if it keeps your local librarian working tomorrow?

Several members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors think so. So do supervisors in neighboring Loudoun County, who hope the General Assembly will allow them to impose a meals tax, too.

If the supervisors are so sure that a tax increase would be popular, why don’t they put it to a referendum?

Or better yet, why not make it voluntary? The waitress could bring you a bill that shows the cost of the food and drink, the state tax, the county tax (as Virginia receipts already do), and then “additional voluntary local tax to keep Fairfax government big.” If the supervisors are right, people will gladly pay it.

Right, supervisors?