It is clear to me the Union-Bulletin and the county commissioners missed the point of the first public meeting of the newly formed Walla Walla Sheriff's Foundation last week.
Had they listened, they would have heard that the Foundation was formed by local citizens to pursue alternative sources of funding for the Sheriff's Office that are outside the ability and scope of the county to provide.
Sheriff Turner was invited to the meeting by the Foundation to present to the community the current risks to public safety and his views on critical issues that should be prioritized. These citizens of Walla Walla County recognize the threats to public safety we are now faced with, and fully realize along with Sheriff Turner that the county cannot afford to fully fund these issues all at once within the current budget.
These issues have manifested themselves over years of inadequate funding and lack of prioritization, and are way beyond just another budget debate.
As a local taxpayer, and given the current economic woes experienced by every local agency across the country, I appreciate the conservative bent the county commissioners exhibit in the stewardship of taxpayer funds and the administration of their budget.
However, I sense the people we elected to represent our interests appear to not acknowledge that there exist today serious threats to our public safety in Walla Walla County, and threats to those who are charged with providing that public safety. The resources currently available to county law enforcement personnel are sorely lacking in both manpower and outdated equipment that literally puts lives at risk.
The county commissioners need to work with Sheriff Turner now to establish priorities that are most critical to the safety of the community, and do what is within their means to achieve some of those goals, even if that means operating with a smaller reserve for a period of time.
We are fortunate to have a sheriff with the passion for the job that John Turner brings.
It's his job to identify and ask for these resources. His predecessors have all done fine work, however times have changed and the challenges we face are now different.
I expect our elected officials to take an educated, measured budget risk to prioritize and support these important and immediate public safety needs