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Ready, fire, aim

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It’s been an interesting spring for state Sen. Patricia Ritchie, the Heuvelton Republican serving her first term in the Legislature. If nothing else, Ms. Ritchie has mastered the art of press releases. It’s a shame that the actions she is so proud of touting to the world don’t seem to carry much philosophical consistency.

For example, not long ago, she sent out a release proudly announcing her support for a law that would require convicted animal abusers to register with police, much the same as convicted sex offenders must do. This, Ms. Ritchie says, will make our neighborhoods safer places to live, play and walk the dog.

Animal abuse registry? Are you kidding me? Let’s presume that society actually does have enough interest in sex offenders to require them to announce where they are in perpetuity (and I have seen no serious studies that suggest that sex offender registries actually do reduce the number of sex offenses). Should we also presume that society has an equal interest in knowing where The Cat Lady lives at all times?

While Ms. Ritchie and her avid Republican animal protectors suggest that this will eventually keep serial killers out of the neighborhood (since, as a former candidate for Jefferson County sheriff said, nearly all serial killers started by torturing animals — except those that didn’t), that’s a pretty long plank to walk. And most charges of animal abuse are either misdemeanors or violations, something considerably less heinous than a sex crime. Yet the Ritchie bill would put animal abuse on a par with rape and other sexual misconducts, and ahead of murders, arsons and armed robberies — none of whose perpetrators have to register anywhere. Huh?

Why is this such a monstrous contradiction of the Ritchie principle? Well, to begin with, for someone who wants to decrease the size of government, adding this onerous task to local sheriff’s departments certainly doesn’t reduce government’s intrusions in our lives or the number of state-required tasks foisted upon local governments (can you say “unfunded mandate”?). And there is simply no way this would not add to the cost of doing business for local law enforcement.

Then, there is Ms. Ritchie’s proud announcement that she has procured $50,000 in state funds to fight Eurasion watermilfoil in Black Lake. This lagniappe will be used to control, in unspecified ways, the infestation of the absurdly hardy invasive species that has played havoc throughout the north country and around the country.

Certainly, this sounds great if you are a Black Lake property owner, and pretty darned good if you fish there a lot. However, those same interests on Buttlerfield, Millsite, Mud, Red and the other lakes of the Indian River chain are left wondering “Hey, where’s our state money to keep our property values up and our fishing good?” And the answer is, of course, well, there isn’t any.

I’m not exactly sure how this can possibly square with Ms. Ritchie’s low tax/low spending Republican philosophy. This $50,000 is tax money — it came out of the pockets of people and companies who pay taxes to New York state. In consideration of the scope of the problem, with scores of lakes suffering from milfoil infestations and many of them within Ms. Ritchie’s district, shouldn’t any state initiative be more encompassing and better designed, perhaps with an eye toward finding real, affordable solutions to the milfoil problem? If such spending is proposed and Ms. Ritchie doesn’t jump on that bandwagon, it would achieve the acme of hypocrisy.

This intrusive and spendthrift side of Ms. Ritchie doesn’t square with her small government, fiscal prudence, minimal spending talk. She won’t sponsor a desperately needed sales tax hike for her own county because she knows, better than the local Board of Legislators does, that it is far better to keep grinding people into the ground with property taxes than it is to spread some of the tax burden around among the students who are in temporary residence in the county and the tourists who flock to the county (remember, that’s why we’re pouring $50,000 into Black Lake) and the residents of the county who do not own property. God forbid we should tax any Canadians who come across the border!

The problem with firing off a press release every time you rotate your tires is that it gives people the opportunity to scrutinize your actions. Ms. Ritchie seems to have mastered the “ready, fire, aim” manner of holding public office. It would be a lot better if she started walking the talk, and thinking a bit before she jumps on the old party bandwagon.

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