Pin It
Favorite

Insecurity at City Hall 

Why we’re really spending $130,000 to post an officer at a desk

click to enlarge art19136.jpg

Mayor Condon has decided to beef up security at City Hall. Instead of a $15-an-hour contract employee signing visitors in, we will now be “welcomed” by a uniformed police officer — a lieutenant no less, reportedly making $130,000 a year. This isn’t the first such effort to tighten security. In years past we didn’t check in at all. Also, we could enter City Hall directly from the skywalk that crosses from the River Park Square parking garage. The trend line seems to be heading in the direction of City Hall as a version of the Baghdad Green Zone.

While Spokane has had its share of weirdos — people who might be semi-out of control — it is only in the past decade that we have come to view mayhem as a permanent condition of public life. And what happened a decade ago? Sept. 11 happened. And it spawned the War on Terror, which replaced the Cold War. And as with all “wars,” we did what we usually do: create a new bureaucracy. We called this one the Department of Homeland Security. Our new agency seeks to answer the threat question — terrorism, not so much as a place or a person but as a tactic.

It’s easy enough to get the public on the same threat page when the war is real, as it was with World War II, but it’s more difficult when the war is hypothetical and doesn’t involve a nation-state. And when the battlefield is the “homeland,” the situation gets more complicated, if for no other reason than the need to bring in the locals. They must accept that the threat — according to Washington, D.C., i.e., Security HQ — is their threat, and the War on Terror is their war.

But here’s the downside: More often than not, when this scenario is played out, we find ourselves plunging into a morass of unintended consequences, which often redirect resources that are needed for real threats to public safety. Put another way, national strategies and tactics often aren’t all that relevant to our particular circumstances. Street crime? It gets short shrift in the War on Terror.

When considering public policy, we must try to anticipate the unintended consequences; alas, we seldom do. Our history is replete with examples: We build an interstate highway system to expedite connectivity and improve flow of commerce (and support “civil defense”), but along the way we succeed in creating suburban sprawl. We build public housing to replace the row-house ghettos and create high-rise ghettos. We reduce taxes on the wealthy on the premise that lower taxes will actually increase revenue, then watch as the national debt doubles — and then doubles again. We applaud “No Child Left Behind” and then spend the following years trying to explain to ourselves why it isn’t working.

We have passed from the Cold War State to what one writer terms the National Security State, with branch offices throughout the country. I refer to the boost in security at City Hall.

Do we need more security at City Hall? Well, according to the War on Terror manual we do. Even though an argument can be made that here the unintended consequences outweigh the intended consequences.

Could it be, however, that we invite the unintended consequence by failing to go after local crime, because we are spending so much money walling off a Green Zone at City Hall?

And does it not follow that if diminishing real threats to our public safety is what we need most, shouldn’t we start with more police presence — maybe directly across the street from City Hall?

Would this not be more relevant to our “threat” circumstances? 

Tags:

  • Pin It

Latest in Comment

  • Growing Pains
  • Growing Pains

    When the only constant is change itself, we'd best saddle up and make the most of it
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • Access for Sale?
  • Access for Sale?

    Trail Mix: Clinton's shaky Foundation, Trump's questionable staffers
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • Why I'm With Her
  • Why I'm With Her

    Ignore the chants: Hillary Clinton has earned America's trust from her life of public service
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Wed | Thu | Fri | Sat | Sun | Mon
Bodies Human: Anatomy in Motion

Bodies Human: Anatomy in Motion @ Mobius Science Center

Tuesdays-Sundays. Continues through Dec. 31

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Robert Herold

  • Mad as Hell
  • Mad as Hell

    The economy's ups and downs have created profound dislocations, but yelling won't fix anything
    • Aug 18, 2016
  • Comparison Shopping
  • Comparison Shopping

    Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are both candidates for president; that's where the similarities end
    • Jul 21, 2016
  • No Solution At All
  • No Solution At All

    Donald Trump's plans to reduce mass shootings defy both common sense and factual evidence
    • Jun 30, 2016
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • 'Unreasonable Threat to Life and Property'

    Spokane's rental housing has problems, but landlord and tenant groups are split on a solution
    • Aug 11, 2016
  • 'End of Story'

    Condon administration aims to close the controversial Frank Straub chapter — but last week's scathing report has irrevocably changed the narrative
    • Aug 4, 2016
  • More »

Top Tags in
News & Comment

Briefs


election 2016


green zone


marijuana


trail mix


Readers also liked…

  • Opting Out of Reality
  • Opting Out of Reality

    Publisher's Note
    • Feb 11, 2015
  • Beggs for a Solution
  • Beggs for a Solution

    In the three months Breean Beggs has been on the council, he's pitched out-of-the-box ideas for some of the city's stickiest problems
    • Jun 2, 2016

© 2016 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation