Thursday, February 03, 2011

Do You Take Your Children Leaded or Unleaded?

Two GOP county commissioners in Saginaw found just the perfect issue to illustrate how low they can go when it comes to drawing the line in the sand on that "wasteful gubbermint spending".

Saginaw could be at risk of losing a $3.1 million federal lead abatement grant after two GOP county leaders objected to the spending, County Department of Public Health officials say.

Commissioners Tim Kelly and Kirk W. Kilpatrick, both R-Saginaw Township, challenged a need for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant targeted at the Saginaw zip codes of 48601, 48602 and 48607. The initiative would eliminate lead sources in about 240 homes and test about 300, plans show.

“It’s just growing government and we can’t afford to do this,” Kelly said. “The problem is minimal, yet the dollars keep going up.”

"The problem is minimal". It's just a few brain-damaged children. In 2009, 1,613 children under 6 in Saginaw were tested, and 25 had blood poisoning. 25 lives. And Saginaw had a population of 4,817 kids under 6 at the time, so how many did they miss?

“The problem of lead poisoned children exists in Saginaw County, and particularly in the city of Saginaw and it’s largely related to housing stock” with lead-based paint, (John D. McKellar, leader of the Health Department) said. “If the federal government is offering money to address the problem, then we should accept the money.”

The money is meant to reduce the threat of lead poisoning in children who live in older homes, usually those built before 1978, officials say.

The lead abatement program reached a critical impasse Monday when the County Board of Commissioners Human Services Committee failed to vote to accept the money and hire five employees to carry out the initiative.

GOP Commissioner Kelly complained that these jobs would go away in a few years because "lead paint abatement is going to be something (that goes) the way of the typewriter". Um, not if you don't remove it from these older houses, it won't. Not quite following the logic there, but apparently this commissioner thinks that because the previous efforts have been successful, the rest of the lead will go away on its own. Or something. And, GOP Commissioner Kilpatrick added, if you make efforts to remove this toxic material, they might move on to replacing other dangerous toxins as well. We can't have that.

“My concerns are that according to the data the lead abatement issue is going away and it looks like they are changing the grant over to a health homes initiative,” Kilpatrick said. “There’s all kinds of reasons that they’re coming up with to replace windows and doors and paint and carpet with federal funds and it’s just not where our federal funds should be going right now.”

Perhaps these commissioners might want to run for a federal office then? Because last I checked, it's not really up to county-level officials to determine what the federal government should doing with grant money. Federal officials will just take it back, and give it to another community that shows an interest in the health of its citizens - and an interest in creating the jobs that come with these grants. Private contractors would provide the supplies for lead removal, and hundreds would be trained for that work, as well as other community outreach.

The program would employ and train about 200 people, many low income workers, in lead abatement and education outreach through community nonprofit groups, such as the First Ward Community Center and the Ezekiel Project, plans say.

So let's add up the total from the GOP position here: Lost jobs, lost sales of materials for local private contractors, and more brain-damaged children. Sound like a plan? But don't worry people of Saginaw; this was all for show. They weren't really serious about this, they were just wasting your time and taxpayer dollars to play politics.

Kelly and Kilpatrick said they don’t believe their opposition will halt the program. The hope was to send a message to the board’s Democratic majority things aren’t “business as usual,” Kelly said.

“If it temporarily throws a monkey wrench into their plans, then so be it,” he said.

Ladies and gentlemen, your modern-day Republican Party in action. The health of the little children be damned, can't you see we have political games to play here? UPDATE: The third Democrat on the board, who was absent from the initial meeting, showed up for a vote Friday and the board passed a recommendation to accept the money on a 3-2 party line decision.