September 19, 2011 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

The Department of Homeland Security has given the State of Texas at least $1.7 billion in grants since 9/11. The money is for anti-terrorists prevention plus our own safety and security. Like a $21 fish tank in Seguin, a $24,000 latrine on wheels in Fort Worth, and a hog catcher in Liberty County.

Huh? A fish tank? A portable john? A hog catcher, apparently to catch even more pork? It seems grants to Liberty County also bought $6,167 worth of feed pans and dog crates. Sure, they’re listed as “dog crates,” but have you checked those photos from Abu Ghraib? Why do you think the MPs needed leashes?

It gets worse. Under the guise of homeland security we also paid $47 for bird cages and $5 for rodent cages. Kleberg County bought two brand-new 2011 Camaros, each costing $30,884. Whose brother has the Camaro dealership in Kleberg County? The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) paid for body bags, garbage bags and Ziploc bags, for hog leftovers, probably.

Even when something is purchased, apparently no one knows what to do with it: A $250,000 first-responder trailer had been parked since its purchase, obviously without much use, and bolt cutters had to be used to open another trailer because the keys couldn’t be found. “That’s sure a mushroom-shaped cloud, Billy John. Where are the keys? No, I thought you had the keys. Anybody got the keys?” Once inspectors broke in, they found two new mobile generators with flat tires.

All of these mind-numbing revelations and more were dug up by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (don’t we just hate the liberal media?) in poking through thousands of purchase orders. In addition, a report this year by the inspector general of DHS criticized Texas’ management of DHS grants from 2006 to 2008. The audit showed that the state was generally efficient in administering the grant programs, but passed the money to local governments without adequately defined objectives. Nor did the state adequately monitor the cities, counties, etc., the report says. Instead – get this — the state asked local officials to rate their own performance.

Austin also asked the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to check how the funds were being spent. Yet in the four years ending in 2009, DPS evaluated only about 60 grant recipients a year, among the many handouts, with little or no emphasis on performance, the inspector general’s audit found. This is a nice way of saying our state government is sloppily spreading our tax dollars, and has no idea how they were spent. Then Austin asked the local officials to rate their own performance. That’s crazy.

“The state,” we must remember, is Texas, governed by the Honorable Rick Perry, that watchdog of waste and fraud, who absolutely detests Washington, the federal government and the Redskins. But that $1.7 billion the feds gave the state, well, that’s another matter. It is the same as requesting federal funds to help fight forest fires from a government you ridicule in hopes of running that very government. There is something hypocritical about biting the handout that feeds you, but it is extra bad when those very funds are wasted. If Perry has trouble running Texas, how can he run the entire country?

There is, however, an answer: “They don’t know what they’re talking about,” explained former Texas Homeland Security director Jay Kimbrough. (Kimbrough has been Perry’s policy point-man for almost every crisis in his administration from drug task forces to the Texas Youth Commission, and was temporarily chancellor of the Texas A&M System.)

We paid for framing hammers, envelopes and hanging folders. Is some Texas town going to mail al-Quida a threat? Somebody requested those funds and got them. Sort of gives new meaning to “pushing the envelope.” The city of San Antonio got a $2.99 million helicopter and a $349,916 Ballistic Engineered Armored Response vehicle. North Richland Hills has a $225,913 armored vehicle.

Wait, there’s more. DHS has poured a total of $6.1 billion into Texas for homeland protection, much of it going directly to local governments, bypassing Perry. This amount includes $4,422 spent at a Sugar Land gym equipment store, $67,740 for gym memberships and almost $427K for “veterinary/animal care services” in Humble. Why?

Now a most important question: Did you get any of that $6.1 billion? I sure didn’t, but others did. So we must poke our own snout into the government trough. We apply for funds to pay for projects that sounds important. For example, a few thou for an “anti-al-Quida protector, guaranteed to plant fear in the heart of any would-be terrorist.” It’s a razor and a bar of soap. “Suicide bomber eradicator,” aka a short fuse. Guys, need a new yacht to check out the chicks on the beach? No problem, there are probably funds for “nautical surveillance equipment.”

Short some money for that vacation in Paris? “Texas Anti-IED, Inc.” should have no trouble landing big DHS contracts. IED does not stand for Improvised Explosive Device, those road-side bombs, but rather stands for Imminent European Departure. That will go unnoticed by the Perry watchdogs. Use military parlance: “Border Waster, one, Model 67-X. Flammable.” OK, so it’s a case of tequila. Who will know? Considering the lack of oversight, just be honest: “Dancing lessons, $434. Birthday party for kids, $187.” Those costs should be covered without question.

This whole outrageous boondoggle can be laid at the feet of those running for office against boondoggles. Finally if you are wondering how any city or county could justify buying bird cages and fish tanks, we turn to Pamela Centeno, a Seguin city planner who administers some of the grants. The cages and tanks allow refugees to drop off their mice or goldfish on the way to San Antonio. She wasn’t sure how many fish the tank could hold. Considering all the pork we have purchased, Perry’s new book, “Fed Up!,” is not so much a title as instructions to the waiter.


Ashby is scheming at ashby2@comcast.net





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