Did anybody else feel less than homeland-secure after yesterday's fandango with the Dallas County Homeland Security Advisory Committee?
First, Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price tried to re-appoint to the committee the founder of an international anti-Semitic hate group -- a guy best known locally for threatening to bring rifles and shotguns to Dallas school board meetings in the late 1990s.
Showing a very rare independence of Commissioner Price, County Judge Clay Jenkins delayed a vote to confirm the reappointment of Aaron McCarthy aka Aaron Michaels to the Dallas County Homeland Security Advisory Committee. Somehow the commissioners, in their wisdom, had already appointed McCarthy aka Michaels to the committee once.
They were about to do it again when citizens began to point out to them who he was.
They didn't know who he was when they appointed him to their committee the first time? Guess what. Nobody knew what the committee was, anyway, if that eases your mind at all.
Are we homeland secure yet?
Of course, all of this raised a question most of us had never considered. What the hell is the Dallas County Homeland Security Advisory Committee?
Turns out, not much. Yesterday Scott Greeson, the county's Interim Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, put out a kind of manifesto dealing with that very question. And now, in the mood I'm in, even the guy's title gives me the willies a little bit. It's like looking at somebody's work shirt in your building and seeing a little badge that says, "Probationary Elevator Inspector."
But Greeson deserves points for candor. He said in his manifesto that the Dallas County Homeland Security Advisory Committee (DCHSAC) is redundant of the Emergency Preparedness Planning Council (EPPC) of the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG), and also of the Regional Emergency Preparedness Advisory Committee (REPAC), and also of a group called Volunteers Active in Disaster (VOAD), and also of a group called the Disability Integration Committee (DIC).
I had two thoughts as I read that. One was just something left over from an undergrad logic course I took long ago: If DCHSAC is redundant of EPPC, REPAC, VOAD and DIC, then does it not follow that EPPC, REPAC, VOAD and DIC are redundant of each other? No biggie if they are. The much bigger thought I had was: Please, no matter what happens, do not appoint Aaron McCarthy aka Aaron Michaels to Volunteers Active in Disaster. At least give us time to find out more about what that group does first. Which brings us back to the question of what DCHSAC does. According to Greeson, nothing. Greeson said in the manifesto that he had investigated and discovered that "the committee also was confused on what its intent was and what it was that they were being asked to do.
"Committee members advised that past meetings were no more than presentations with little value to the department or to the committee itself. The committee was unsure of how to proceed. The members themselves advised that they could not remember making any recommendations or providing input to the Court in the 6 years that it has been established."
Greeson pointed out that the commissioners court appointed the current members to the DCHSAC in 2011, after being read a statement to the effect that the committee was focused on "outreach to federal agencies and law enforcement entities to increase awareness on transnational crime and terrorism."
He said: "There are a couple of issues with this statement. First, this department and this committee do not serve in a capacity to utilize information regarding awareness on transnational crime or terrorism in the intent of this description as this is well out of the scope of our practice. We are not an investigative or law enforcement agency that can advise or act on such issues."
I didn't catch what the second issue was. I was still stuck on the fact that the commissioners court had voted unanimously to appoint people to a committee that nobody, including them, really knew the purpose or function of, but about which everybody had some pretty wrong ideas. All they really knew was that it had the words "Homeland Security" in its title.
Homeland security: I mean the term doesn't even ring anybody's bell anymore? It's like, Homeland Whatever? Oh, yeah, I feel homeland secure about that.
(Did they ever locate the huge emergency communications satellite dishes that Willis Johnson sold the county? Maybe one of the Acronyms could look into that.)
At the end of his manifesto, Mr. Greeson suggested they just snuff the whole thing, abandon the DCHSAC, never appoint anybody to it again and pretend it never happened. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins immediately announced that he would suspect appointments to the committee.
Oh, wow, how is that for brave decisiveness? He could have said, "No, I'm sorry, but we cannot appoint a shotgun-toting, school-board threatening, anti-Semitic guy with aka in his name to a body that has the words 'homeland security' anywhere in its title."
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But that would have involved saying no to Commissioner Price. And apparently we're not there yet. We're just not quite that homeland secure.
So here's your best chance. I want you to put this phone number on your ice box: 214-653-7980. Next to it, write, "Scott Greeson, IDOHSAEM." That's for Interim Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
Late one night, sadly, the terrorists set off a dirty bomb in Highland Park, the obvious target. You hear about it because your neighbors are all running around naked in the street screaming Holy Hell. Go to the ice box. Read the phone number.
Make up your mind. Should you remain calm and call Mr. IDOHSAEM for advice? Or run out in the street naked and scream your ass off? I'm going with the second option.