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Editor’s Note — Save your Homeland Security money

Terrorists aren’t going to attack Lincolnton, Lincoln County, or anywhere else in the Catawba Valley region. Ever.
When you get done knocking on wood and hyperventilating into a paper sack at the use of the words “Lincoln County” and “terrorists” in the same sentence, consider this — Catawba County will receive a $1.7 million Department of Homeland Security grant for its fire departments, announced on Monday by Rep. Patrick McHenry’s office.
That’s $1.7 million in federal homeland security money for fire departments. Catawba County fire departments.
According to a press release on McHenry’s official website, Hickory Fire Chief Fred Hollar said the money will be used to purchase 800-megahertz radios for every single fire and rescue squad in Catawba County.
That’s $1.7 million of government Department of Homeland Security money for radios. In Catawba County.
I’m not against Catawba County first responders having radios with as many megahertz as they want. I’m as big a fan of high-powered electronics as the next guy.
But I’m not a big fan of my federal tax dollars paying for Catawba County radios, and I’m definitely not a fan of my federal tax dollars that are allocated to the Department of Homeland Security — which was established in the weeks after the 9/11 terror attacks — being used for that purpose.
If Catawba County really needs those radios, it should pay for them itself. The county lists just less than $215 million in revenues in its 2014-2015 budget. Surely, if the need for communications equipment is that desperate, the county can finance that purchase on its own, without taking “free” government money, which isn’t really free anyway.
Yes, I’m saying municipalities and counties should do the responsible thing and turn down wasteful federal spending.
That goes for Lincoln County, too. This may not be common knowledge, but only the Keystone Cops of terrorists are going to target a county with 80,000 residents in the western piedmont of North Carolina. And if the real terrorists are knocking at our doors, we’ve got bigger problems than any high-frequency radios can fix.
It’s frivolous spending like this that has the federal government’s finances in the state they’re in. How about pumping that $1.7 million into 10th District schools or hunger prevention programs or drug treatment facilities? Or, how about we use that $1.7 million to make the country’s southern border a bit more secure?
There are far better ways to spend that much federal money. And it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to figure out what they are.

Michael Gebelein is managing editor of the Lincoln Times-News.

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