Similar to Senator Barack Obama three years ago, Henry Patterson ran a campaign promising “change”. Similar to President Obama now, many of those who supported Sheriff Patterson wonder where the “change” is or what exactly the “change” was that Patterson had in mind when he promised it.
Unfortunately, one of the most obvious connections Sheriff Patterson has with the idea of “change” is the changing stories he or his infamous re-election team put out there to try and make him look good to the public. The most well known example locally of spinning news stories to try and get a political advantage was when the Outsiders jumped out there and bragged that the Sheriff’s response to a citizen tipping the Sheriff’s Department off to where two huge fields of marijuana was growing would make his re-election almost automatic. When Liberty Dispatch started asking why there were no arrests and why all Patterson did was “arrests the pot plants”, the Outsiders backpedaled and asked for proof the sheriff was even involved in the sting.
Besides the “change” we have observed in his efforts to attract voters, we have heard Patterson and/or his Outsider buddies “change” the meaning of conservative by telling us all it is not conservative for the Sheriff to even consider the possibility that it may save the county’s taxpayers money for the county to run the jails. This ridiculous effort to change what conservatism is claims it is as simple as the slogan that "private business always is more efficient than anything the government does". But that is not true. Otherwise maybe we should hire a military and maybe we should hire people to run the military jails. And if it is true private companies always run jails cheaper, then maybe Patterson should hire a private company to patrol the county. Does Patterson think that would save money too? Or has he already started to do that (ie: the Outsiders)?
It is not only wrongheaded to think that “farming out’ these responsibilities is conservatism, it may be that this kind of thing is at least questionable to almost all constitutionally-minded people. The government is charged with the responsibility of protecting us. Farming this duty out and sending the taxpayers the bill may not set well with many conservatives. Patterson and his libertarian friends cannot “change” what conservatives believe just because Patterson struggles with managing his current duties.
This sheriff’s political handlers can write comments saying that the sheriff’s department is already short-handed and overburdened without taking on managing the jails, but taxpayers are not stupid. The Liberty County Sheriff would get a boatload of money and more personnel if his duties to run the jail were reinstated. Patterson and/or his people have already said it would cost more money for the sheriff to run the jail. Again, Patterson doesn’t seem open to real “change”. One of his opponents, Bobby Rader, has already said that the facts need to be collected and a cost/benefit analysis needs to done. Liberty County Sheriff candidate Bobby Rader says: “Whatever is best for the taxpayer is what I will push for if he is elected as sheriff”.
Perhaps the most damning fact about Patterson’s handling of this issue is that just like the two most long serving commissioners (Todd Fontenot and Melvin Hunt - both Democrats), he seems to rely on previous decisions and make assumptions rather than gather the facts. A cursory investigation reveals that as of Tuesday only County Judge Craig McNair, Bobby Rader, and Liberty Dispatch have asked the county auditor for information necessary to analyze what should be done with the jails. Conservatives might say Patterson is acting more like a Democrat when he makes his own job easier by leaving the jail in the hands of a private company and sends the bill to the taxpayers. In Texas and indeed throughout the USA, most jails are still under the management of the county sheriff.
The jail question brings up the real “change” we have had since Patterson defeated Greg Arthur in November 2008. Patterson has “changed” out Arthur’s good ole boys for his own. Besides the infamous “farming out” of certain “investigations” to the infamous Outsiders and hiring captains with troubled pasts from Harris County, Patterson has added Warden Timothy New, the CEC jail administrator for Liberty County to his list of people in his good ole boys network. No obvious crime there on the surface, but no great “change” from business as usual either. Timothy New has numerous allegations against him that are clearly troubling.
Patterson has been seen riding around and hanging out with Timothy New for years now. And for years now an unacceptable level of lawsuits has come from the jail Timothy New administers. Undoubtedly, allegations of Timothy New stalking a married woman and offering to help make some of her legal problems go away for sexual favors were not part of their friendly conversations. And apparently neither was the proposition of working to stop an ever increasing amount of contraband in the jails – sexual abuse, cell phones and drug contraband etc. But the possibility of big money through bribery, etc. is also attached to the jail and most of us are far more interested in Patterson fulfilling his role of oversight than buddying up to Timothy New. Allegedly, CEC has recently stopped efforts to search prisoners and jail cells and if true, who can identify any meaningful “change” we have because of Henry Patterson being elected sheriff ?
Why is Patterson’s cozy relationship to Timothy New important? There is a great deal more than “change” involved in who runs our jails. CEC gets paid millions to run our jail. CEC just sent taxpayers an increase that will add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars a year just months after our judges found ways to save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Patterson and the commissioners seem to be fatalistic and prepared to stamp “approved” as CEC cashes in and takes much of the savings the judges have engineered. In addition, CEC’s rate increase has Liberty County taxpayers carrying a bigger load than the federal government. We have heard no objection from Sheriff Patterson and CEC is charging you and me $12.45 more per day for keeping someone in a jail cell than they charge the feds for keeping someone in the same cell!
Conservative voters of Liberty County voted for substantial change the last two elections and we have actually achieved much of it. But it is time to review some of the people we elected and to replace them if we want to continue to change this community into what we want it to be. Anyone paying attention the last three years should agree replacing Patterson should be part of the change we work towards in 2012.