Saturday, August 1, 2015

The question isn't whether we "have to lose" the Sheriff's Office

This might be petty semantics, but there might also be some symbolic value to the point, so we'll make it anyway. In his story about Sheriff John Green's retirement plans, Chris Brennan observes that both PICA and the Committee of Seventy have called for closing the Sheriff's Office, and that the city could save $3-4 million a year by doing so. He then gets a reaction quote from State Rep. Jewell Williams, who Bob Brady dubs the "frontrunner" to eventually inherit the position of Sheriff:

The question isn't whether we "have to lose" the Sheriff's Office

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Jewell Williams
Jewell Williams

This might be petty semantics, but there might also be some symbolic value to the point, so we'll make it anyway. In his story about Sheriff John Green's retirement plans, Chris Brennan observes that both PICA and the Committee of Seventy have called for closing the Sheriff's Office, and that the city could save $3-4 million a year by doing so. He then gets a reaction quote from State Rep. Jewell Williams, who Bob Brady dubs the "frontrunner" to eventually inherit the position of Sheriff:

"You just have to put the right person in there to handle the finances," Williams said. "I just don't think we need to lose the Sheriff's Office, and not just because I'm the front-runner."

We're glad for the clarification of Williams' motivations, but we're a little perplexed by the formulation "we don't need to lose the Sheriff's Office." Shouldn't the first question here be whether we need to have a Sheriff's Office? Yes, OK, the city has elected a Sheriff since 1838, but we're not sure this is a tradition with a lot of sentimental value to a lot of people. This quote makes it sound like Williams is starting from an assumption of "we should have a Sheriff's office" and then looking for justifications for that assumption. When we're talking about government structures, especially in this day and age, that's a problematic approach.

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Every year, city government spends slightly more than $4 billion. Where does all that money come from? More importantly, where does it go? Are we getting the most bang for our tax buck? “It's Our Money” is a joint project between Philadelphia Daily News and WHYY, funded by the William Penn Foundation, designed to answer these questions.

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