We’ve respected incoming 3rd District Supervisor Todd Spitzer as an industrious law-and-order guy who generally has the public’s best interest in mind. He’s never hidden his political ambitions as most high-information Orange County voters know he’ll be going after District Attorney Tony Rackauckas’ job in just two years. If TRack doesn’t retire and runs again in ’14, he’s got some recent baggage to account for — his 2012 election robocalls in support for Larry Agran were inexcusable. And of course, there was Rackauckas’ questionable firing of Spitzer in 2010, so there’s a lot of payback to be made. If he makes it to the DA’s office using the million dollars that Register columnist Frank Mikadeit says he’s accumulated, we’d hope that Todd takes more interest in local corruption than Rackauckas ever has.
Todd’s been a County Supervisor (and a State Assemblyman) before, and should be fine for his District for the next two years. He can be sometimes combative and in-your-face, but that might be refreshing after eight years of Bill Campbell’s less than effective, milquetoasty leadership. At the least, Mr. Spitzer brings some energy to the political process.
It’s unsettling, though, that his campaign for DA seems to have started already. Earlier this week, the Register published this column he authored: DUI getting worse in Orange County. He discusses his very personal interest in the problem of drunk driving — his friend and former Chief of Staff was killed by a drunk in 2006. He writes “the numbers in Orange County, alarmingly, are steadily on the rise”, but he offers no supporting analysis or statistics to prove DUIs ARE getting worse (and why did the Register not challenge this, and support what might be a misleading headline?). One might think, given the significant and voluminous DUI enforcement efforts that we’ve lavishly funded for so many years now, that DUI arrests might actually be decreasing. Who hasn’t encountered a DUI checkpoint, or seen the profusion of notices of them on a weekly basis in the media? Who hasn’t heard or seen a government-sponsored radio or TV ad with their alarming warnings of “buzzed” (the current euphemism) driving? Who’s actually looked at DUI checkpoint strategies and yields to determine if they’ve reached a point of diminishing return, or from a more cynical view, are they now just overtime generators for unionized police officers? If Mr. Spitzer’s done this and found these efforts are still lacking, where are the numbers? If the efforts failing, why do them?
His OCR column says he’ll be:
Co-sponsoring a DUI Summit at the end of February in collaboration with the Orange County DUI Task Force, which includes MADD, the Auto Club, and Orange County’s Health Care Agency, among others. This forum will focus on preventative measures for DUI and will include data from OTS and local law enforcement prevention methods.
Let’s hope his Summit includes a comprehensive analysis of how well, or poorly, checkpoints, media and other enforcement techniques have worked over the years, and what they’ve cost for the results they achieve. AND let’s also hope there’s a discussion of how ultimately intrusive these techniques are on the FREEDOMS and civil rights of sober citizen drivers who are being stopped withOUT cause (guilty until proven innocent?) and forced to submit to police scrutiny and questioning. These violations of personal freedom on the millions of responsible drivers who aren’t loaded, and probably just trying to get home, never seems to get adequately addressed.
The column goes on:
Local policymakers will be given a forum and opportunity to brainstorm strategies to reduce the devastating impacts of DUI in Orange County. It’s time to map out solutions that we can enact at a local level. As the incoming Third District county supervisor, I plan to lead the charge to bring the DUI issue to the forefront year round. The solutions currently in place (check points and saturation patrols, DUI media campaigns, responsible beverage service, social host ordinances) are just not enough.
The “solutions currently in place” may be as far as this issue can be taken, given it’s been beaten into the ground for so many years. Another “forum” isn’t going to solve anything or reveal any new technique that won’t take away more of our freedoms. That the current “solutions” are “just not enough” is troubling as it implies MORE invasive methods are necessary. Does Mr. Spitzer believe, for example, that breathalyzers installed in vehicles to prevent their operation might be next? That’s a non-starter, but what else would there be?
Aside from more tromping a little more on the rights of honest, sober citizens, Mr. Spitzer’s summit isn’t going to unearth anything more revolutionary, but it would be a resume enhancement for a 2014 DA race. Some analysis we found at a legal website is illuminating:
While 5,000 DUI arrests occurred at sobriety checkpoints in 2008, this number is actually small compared to the total number of alcohol related arrests in California. According to the OTS, there were 215,000 DUI arrests in California in 2008, meaning that the number of arrests at sobriety checkpoints accounts for only 2.3 percent of all DUI arrests. Law enforcement spent $14 million in federal grant money to arrest 5,000 people at sobriety checkpoints. Many wonder whether that money could have been used more efficiently elsewhere.
As well, let’s be a bit careful with MADD. These folks may have meant well once (before their founder quit in disgust), but they’re not looking very reasonable and freedom-loving these days.
There are other issues in Orange County that CAN be resolved — let’s take a look, please, at the malfeasance that’s occurred in County Human Resources, the unposted crony appointments and some plain old corruption. Have a look at a half-billion dollars of unjustified transportation projects supported by Measure M funds in Anaheim since Mr. Spitzer will be an OCTA Director. And particularly, let’s take another look at the pension issues that Supervisors of the past have left us to pay for instead of building or updating infrastructure and reducing our tax burden.
Let’s stop grandstanding and accept that DUI enforcement might not be improved — as the cliché goes, don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. And please don’t forget that freedom business.