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Example of Government Waste

This category had so many choices,
too few awards

By Michael Mechanic

We asked readers to offer examples of government waste. Shouldn't be difficult--after all, there's so much to choose from. There were the disgruntled, who voted for such things as parking tickets, the Planning Department, the City Council, Art Danner, Gary Patton and Neil Coonerty (we can only assume people were referring to their salaries as current or former public officials). There were the cynics who felt public parks, street maintenance, welfare, bilingual education and public art (specifically the Collateral Damage sculpture near the Town Clock) are wasteful. Caltrans made it, too, along with AMBAG, teen curfews, the SPCA, ex-Deputy DA Catherine Gardner's receipt of salary while on "administrative leave" after admitting to a drug problem, the Pajaro River cleanup and UCSC.

Perhaps reflective of increasing public impatience with panhandling, homeless shelters took the Bronze for government waste, although some of us figure that people who supported Reagan can take the blame for that legacy. Well, the homeless can take solace in the fact that the cops were even less popular. Police departments took the Silver (so what will you do when someone breaks into your apartment with a baseball bat--call Grandma?)

And, without further ado, in the true Santa Cruz spirit of '76, prosecution of pot users and the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) were voted the most wasteful use of public money. Hear, hear! The idea that tax dollars are spent so that police helicopters can cruise low over our back yards like some sort of evil big brother is abhorrent. Furthermore, to spend millions prosecuting users of a natural product that is used widely and openly and is probably less damaging to mind and body than alcoholic beverages just doesn't seem to make sense. That money would be better spent on alternatives and prevention.

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From the March 14-20, 1996 issue of Metro Santa Cruz

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