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Government facts and fiction

Posted By Tanya K. Metaksa On 12/03/1998 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled

“I’m from Washington and I’m here to help” is how our government
views its role in today’s America. Those that pass these “helpful” laws
putting government bureaucrats to work solving perceived problems are as
responsible for the results as the bureaucrats and their myriad of rules
and regulations, obfuscation and outright chicanery.

In the middle of November the FBI came out with their crime
statistics for 1997. This monumental task keeps an army of bureaucrats
busy assembling, digesting and then recompiling for the benefit of us
all. If you are like me, you may begin to wonder at the veracity, if not
the accuracy, of all the data that we get from the government. After
all, how does anyone know that the data is not skewed to bolster the
policies of this administration? After all statistics, as my professor
in graduate school once
said, are like a bikini. It is not what is seen, but what is hidden that
is important.

Well, this week we found out what is hidden and who hides it. The key
question is: Who originally feeds the data into the bureaucratic black
hole of the federal statistics workers? The answer? Yet more government
workers at other levels of government — state and local government
employees. And the city of Philadelphia has now admitted to wholesale
manipulation, if not fabrication, of the crime data that is sent to
Attorney General Janet Reno. As a result Reno has begun an inquiry into
how crime statistics in the birthplace of our nation have been “fudged.”
It appears that the Philadelphia Police Department has been downgrading
crimes and in many, many instances not reporting crimes at all, in order
to keep as many crimes as possible off the list of major crimes that
make it into the FBI’s vaunted crime statistics. These are the very
statistics that the president, governors, mayors and
police departments use to judge the effectiveness of crime fighting
efforts.

If it’s happening in Philadelphia, the nation’s fifth largest city,
it could be happening in Los Angeles, New York, Miami and others, in the
name of good public relations for all those police departments.

Inaccurate and false information constantly streams out of many
government
bureaucracies. A case in point is the Tucson Rod & Gun Club’s three-year
battle with the U.S. Forest Service. The Tucson Rod & Gun Club had a
lease on Forest Service land to operate a shotgun, rifle and pistol club
that catered not only to over 300 Tucson residents, but to thousands of
snowbirds who came to warm and sunny Arizona to escape the cold and wet
northern climes. After a few complaints from persons living in close
proximity to the range, the Forest Service closed the club citing noise
pollution, safety and environmental pollution, especially lead. In an
effort to reopen its facility, the club responded in early 1996 that
they would be willing to remove the lead from the range and reclaim it
beginning in the spring of 1996.

Yet, according to internal Forest Service email correspondence
secured through Freedom of Information requests, the Forest Service did
not want the club to clean up the lead, because the Service specifically
wanted to keep the club closed. Park Ranger Bill Lewis sent an e-mail
that stated, “This is tricky policy, we can’t tell them they can’t clean
up the range (we would be liable for the lead then). … ” Instead, the
Forest Service invoked the specter of Superfund lawsuits and forbade
lead removal under the CRM (cultural resource management) aspects of
Superfund.

In September the U.S. Congress passed S. Con. Res. 123 which called
on the Forest Service to find a new location for the range by November
20, 1998. The service issued their decision based on the “facts” that
all outdoor ranges generate noise and, even if properly built, have the
“potential” for a bullet to leave the premises, leading to the
conclusion that there should be no open ranges on Forest Service land.
Yet, a full reading of their $200,000 study shows no lead contamination
to recreational range users or area residents. In fact, the only
possible toxic exposure level could be for an on-site worker who ingests
soil from the backstop for 25 years. With all this data, the Forest
Service concluded that to reopen the range the Tucson Rod & Gun Club
must build an indoor shooting range — after spending 2 million
dollars for cleaning up the non-existent lead.

Last spring Chairman Don Young, R-AK, of the House Resources
Committee, chaired a hearing on the problems faced by the Tucson Rod &
Gun Club range. At that hearing Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck faced
pointed and sometimes hostile questioning not only from Chairman Young,
but also from Representatives Helen Chenoweth and Jim Kolbe regarding
the Forest Service policy on the use of federal land for multiple uses
including shooting areas. Dombeck reiterated again and again that he was
supportive of shooting ranges on public lands and that his staff would
work with all those involved to solve the Tucson club’s problem of a
lack of a facility. Six months later we are brought to the realization
that his assurances were as meaningless as the Philadelphia crime rates.
We can only hope that Chairman Young will hold Mr. Dombeck to his
assurances and investigate the sad story of a gun club with an
impeccable 45-year safety record and a membership dedicated to safety,
responsibility and freedom.


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