Democrats cripple Operation UNITE
If you're one of the voters whose ballot helped John Yarmuth oust Anne Northup from Congress two years ago, or otherwise helped the Democrats claim a majority in Congress in 2006, you may not be very welcome in eastern Kentucky these days.
Operation UNITE, the prototypical and very successful anti-drug task force created by Hal Rogers five years ago, is reeling under massive budget cuts implemented by the Democratic House of Representatives.
UNITE blends the three major aspects of combatting drug abuse -- education against the harmful effects of drugs for youngsters, treatment for those already addicted and law enforcement to punish dealers -- in a unique partnership that has drawn praise from across the region and the country.
Modeled on the successful PRIDE program Rogers also created, which deals with garbage and straight-pipe sewage problems in hi' district, UNITE was Rogers' brainchild and was formed in response to a Lexington Herald-Leader series outlining just how bad the drug abuse problem is in the mountains and foothills of Kentucky.
For each of its first three years, UNITE got $8 million in federal funding. That money, coupled with other grant programs and some faith-based partnerships, enabled UNITE to hire police officers to arrest dealers, fund drug courts within the state court system, pay salaries for special prosecutors and judges, and implement treatment, counseling and educational programs. The federal ante was upped to more than $9 million during the last year the Republicans held the majority in Congress.
However, the transition to the Democrat Congress resulted in the gutting of UNITE (this despite the fact that Ben Chandler liked the program so much he got it expanded into his district's easternmost counties, Estill and Powell, which were already a part of state judicial districts where the other counties were in Rogers' district and thus already part of UNITE). After getting nothing from the feds in 2007, UNITE got only $4 million this year.
As a result, UNITE is laying off police officers and suspending other programs.
Although Rogers' spokesman was diplomatic and blamed the cuts on other factors, make no mistake: This was politically motivated and was intended to be a slap in Rogers' face to punish him for being in the minority.
UNITE isn't pork. It's the perfect example of a successful federal program designed to serve an overall public purpose. It's not income redistribution or welfare or a program designed to benefit individuals instead of society at large. Local officials of both parties have been highly complimentary of UNITE and are lamenting its cuts. Communities that relied on UNITE to help enforce drug laws are now wondering how they're going to take dealers off the streets and are fearful that the drug culture will overtake their towns and counties.
Democrats have proven time and again that they're vengeful people. Anytime they can take power and punish Republicans, they do, without regard for the negative consequences the public may suffer. This is another one of those episodes.
UNITE has been a blessing for eastern Kentucky, just as surely as the Mountain Parkway and US 23 and expanded drinking water lines. Democrats should be ashamed of themselves for crippling such a successful and purposeful program.