Sunday, March 10, 1996

New Braunfels Herald Zeitung

Location: New Braunfels, Texas

Page: 4

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New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung (Newspaper) - March 10, 1996, New Braunfels, Texas 4 A 0 HeraldZeitung O Sunday March Opinion To talk with Managing Editor Doug Loveday about the Opinion page call 6259144 ext 21 One voice doesnt make the voice wrong Once voice makes it the voice of Laura Schlessinger radio talkshow host 1994 EDITORIAL Stonewalled at CAs office Failure to produce public records after more than 60 days leads to AG action Elected officials are sworn to uphold the law All the laws All the time That includes laws they may consider to be a nuisance or which require them to do work they might rather not do We point this out for the benefit of County Attorney Nathan Rheinlander More than 60 days ago the HeraldZeitung first contacted Rheinlander and requested copies of some public records which he promised to provide but which were never produced The HeraldZeitung followed up with at least one telephone call every week for more than the past two months requesting the records but Rheinlander has not returned any of the calls for more than a month Seventeen days ago the HeraldZeitung made a formal written request for public records under Article of the Texas Government Code The Open RecordsAct That request has been ignored for more than two weeks despite a state law that requires a response within 10 days At the Herald Zeitungs request the Open Records Division of the Texas Attorney Generals Office has agreed to pursue the matter Frankly we are baffled about why it has come to this At the inception Rheinlander said it would take less than a week to gather the requested information In fact Assistant County Attorney Stephanie Bums has repeat edly told us she gathered the information made copies and put them on Rhein landers desk in midJanuary We can think of no reason the County Attorneys office would not want to provide the records we requested copies of lawsuits filed by inmates at the county jail We expect the records will show a pattern of frivolous lawsuits filed by inmates which cost the county a substantial amount of money to defend When published we are sure the article will inform our readers about an important public issue most people probably know little or nothing about And we have always enjoyed a healthy and cooperative working rela tionship with the County Attorneys office We see no reason that relation ship has to turn adversarial Why have the records been withheld Did Rheinlander misplace the information Is he just marking time until his retirement next January Is there something inlhere that would prove embarrassing to the county Does he lack respect for the press and for state law We can only guess because Rheinlander did not respond by press time to a telephone call asking for his explanation They call public records public records for a reason The public has a right to see them Elected officials are under mandate of law to provide them Wed like to see our records Mr Rheinlander Todays editorial was written by City Editor Roger Write us The New Braunfels HeraldZeitung welcomes letters on any public issue The editor reserves the right to correct spelling style punctua tion and known factual errors Letters should be kept to 250 words We publish only original mail addressed to the New Braunfels Herald Zeitung bearing the writers signature Also an address and a telephone number which are not for publication must be included Please cite the page number and date of any article that is mentioned Preference is given to writers who have not been published in the previous 30 days Mail letters to Letters to the Editor the New Braunfels HeraldZeitung Drawer 311328 New Braunfels Texas 781311328 Fax 210 6251224 New Braunfels HeraldZeitung Editor and Sullens General DuVall Managing Loveday Retail Advertising Accounting Lee Hall Circulation Ann Avery Production Parnell City Croteau Published on Sunday mornings and weekday mornings Tuesday through Friday by the New Braunfels HeraldZeiiwig USPS 377880 707 Landa or Drawer 311328 New Braunfels Coma County Tx 78131 1328 Second class postage paid by the New Braun fels HeraldZeitung in New Braunfels Texas Canier delivered in Comal and Ouadalupe counties three months six months one year Senior Citizen Discounts by carrier delivery only six months one year Mail delivery outside Comal County in Texas three months six months one year Mail outside Texas six months one year Subscribers who have not received a newspaper by Tuesday through Friday or by on Sunday may call 210 6259144 or by 7 weekdays or by 11 on Sunday POSTMASTER Send address changes to the New Braunfels HeraldZeitung Draw er 311328 New Braunfels Tx 781311328 Opinion Another take on Online contact i To submit letters and guest columns electronically by way of online services or Internet or to simply contact staff members the HeraldZeitungs address is nil ice consolidation As the primary election nears I have concluded that my views on the possible consolidation of the District Attorneys Office and the County Attorneys Office should be made clear to the public This conclusion stems from both my personal conviction and due to the fact that several people have inquired of my thoughts on the matter Initially I believe that tax dollars are currently being spent in a manner that leads to the duplication of several services provided to the public by both offices For example both offices have reception offices have victims assistance coordi nators While both positions provide necessary ser vices for the public I do not believe that the taxpay ers should fund two employees at each position If the offices were to be combined it is not likely that any one would have to be terminated rather upcoming vacancies through retirement would simply remain vacant resulting in a possible budget cut and annual tax savings of approximately to per year including salaries and benefits Currently the lions share of criminal prosecu tion in Comal County both misdemeanor and felony is provided by four attorneys The elected County Attorney and another assistant concentrate on quasi ciminal enforcement of environmental violations and provide general civil legal services for the coun ty Additional funds are expended to hire outside legal counsel for more specialized or critical civil legal advice Through several efficiency issues which could be addressed if the offices are is my belief that four attorneys can provide the necessary criminal prosecution including the environmental enforcement cases One such efficiency issue can be addressed as follows County records indicate that approximately 20 to 30 percent of misdemeanor cases which are currently filed are ultimately dis missed after many hours of resources are expended By utilizing some of those resources to screen the cas es more closely before being filed a net savings of time effort and resources can be realized which can then be applied as I am suggesting above Thus the remaining assistant county attorney would be able to provide the general civil legal ser vices for the country Remember this is merely one possible suggestion for reorganization and I would solicit input from the commissioners other county officials and the public to ascertain how the necessary legal services can best be provided to Comal Coun ty Assuming the scenario I have outlined above is implemented Comal County taxpayers would be translate into asavings to annu ally An additional efficiency issue which could be addressed is that of duplicitous prosecutions In Jan uary of this year county records indicated that at the time the County Attorneys Office and the District Attorneys Office were both prosecuting 24 identical persons for various crimes Thus before each case could be resolved the following duplicated work would have occurred 1 each office create and maintained sep arate files on each individual 2 each offices investigator reviewed the separate files 3 a prosecutor for each office legal ly prepared each separate case for court 4 the respective court clerk created separate files and mailed separate notices for each court setting and 5 both the District Court Judge and the County Courtatlaw Judge presided over each separate case on most likely several occasions Dib Waldrip Each separate step requires the expenditure or coun ty resources and tax dollars in a repetitive manner This does not even include the duplicated costs for those criminal defendants who in one case or anoth er or both required appointment of a defense attor ney at tax payer expense I can only make an educated guess that the January number of 24 duplicitous prosecutions would repeat itself approximately three to four times per year totaling about 70 to 90 duplicitous prosecutions annually If the offices were combined many of such cases could be eliminated without detriment to any victims A combined prosecution team would have the ability to ascertain which is the most legal ly sound case to file and use the other unfiled cases as leverage in plea negotiations including payment of other victims restitution in appropriate circum stances Putting an accurate dollar figure on the potential savings by eliminating the duplicated prosecutions is not an easy task However I am quite certain that the costs of each case from initiation by the law enforce ment agency to completion by the court as enumer ated in the five steps above could not possibly be less than Assuming that a combined prosecutors office could eliminate even 50 of the duplicated cas es a saving of of resources could then be reassigned to other critical cases or be used to help provide some of the other necessary quasicriminal services of a prosecutors office such as protective orders environmental enforcement or collection of child support payments The saving outlined above address only some of the mpreiapparent arid major areasAvhere efficiency and savings inprosecution canberealized This only touches the surface One might also consider the cost savings in paper phone copiers fax machines and other typical office overhead expenses Even without putting a dollar figure on these lessapparent costcutting measures just those savings specified above regarding staff and duplicitous prosecutions total a potential savings of at least annual ly Comal Countys rapid growth rate will undoubtedly require additional staff and resources to be added in the future to accommodate the necessary legal ser vices rendered to the county This inevitable increase will occur whether or not the two prosecution offices are combined If the offices are not combined it is quite likely that both individual offices will require repetitive increases in all if not more of the areas and issues discussed above If the offices are combined the necessary increase will be much less because increased efficiency at this time will result in a reduced work load in the future I should also point out that I have nothing to gain by supporting consolidation of the County and Dis trict Attorneys Offices because my salary from the State of Texas as District Attorney will be the same regardless of whether the offices are combined or remain separate If combined my pay will remain the same while my individual responsibility arid work load will increase My support for this proposition is derived solely from my desire to provide the tax payers of Comal County with an efficient and cost effective method of legal representation Having listened to the campaigns of both Bill Reimer and Stephanie SmithBurns for the office of County Attorney I perceive that one candidate is clearly for consolidation while the other seems ambivalent to the issue The voters appear to have a clear choice in this regard and I urge each registered voter in Comal County to make sure that their voice is heard by getting out and voting on Tuesday March 12th If the voters desire to maintain the status quo vote for the candidate which is more than likely in favor of separate offices On the other hand consol idation of the offices can be achieved by voting for the candidate who has made his position on the matter clear If the voters issue a mandate for consolidation the offices can be combined in several different manners each of which would require both local and state approval I am open to suggestions on how this can best be done to benefit Comal County and I am confident that the voters will entrust the most qualified criminal prosecutor and experienced attorney with that duty of providing and being responsible for the countys legal representation If the public and the county officials choose Dib Waldrip to be that person I will be hum bled and will serve the people of Comal County duti ftiUyi Ifisomeone etee 4sChargedwith thatduty tend responsibility I will wish that individual Godsspeed and will assist whenever called upon to do so Dib Waldrip is Assistant District Attorney running unopposed in the Republican primary for District What do you think Following the tremendous response the HZ received from last weeks survey question regarding the possible renovation of the old LCRA building we thought we better stick with that topic Now that so many have voiced their support of a project to renovate the old structure the next logical question is How would you fund such a project Also Who should take control of the project the City of New Braunfels or a private organization We want to know what you think Fill out the coupon drop it by our office at 707 Landa New Braunfels TX 78130 or fax survey to 210 6251224 Copied forms are acceptable Deadline for this survey is Saturday March What would be the best way to fund a renovation of the old LCRA building Name Address City Phone Age Sex Today In History By The Associated Press Today is Sunday March 10 the 70th day of 1996 There are 296 days left in the year Todays Highlight in History On March 10 1876 Alexander Graham Bell made what was in effect the first telephone call His assistant in an adjoining room in Boston heard Bell over the experi mental device say Mr Watson come here I want On this date In 1496 500 years ago Christo pher Columbus concluded his second visit to the Western Hemisphere as he left Hispaniola for Spain In 1629 Englands King Charles I dissolved Parliament he did not call it back for 11 years In 1785 Thomas Jefferson was appointed minister to France suc ceeding Benjamin Franklin In 1848 the Senate ratified the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ending the war with Mexico In 1864 Ulysses S Grant became commander of the Union armies in the Civil War The Survey Wow New Braunfels We now know what ques tions stir your interest More than 150 readers responded to last weeks survey question Do you believe the LCRA building should be renovated for use today Of those just one respondent said another said yes and and a third said The ayes definitely won the day Here a sample of some of the responses The LCRA plant was an engineering feat when built in 1926 Renewed use of the structure as a Cultural Arts Center will enhance the original purpose of the building and serve to preserve a legacy for future generations of Comal County V To demolish such a grand old historic building would be a shame The location is perfect and the size is such that several different organizations could find housing The LCRA Building is the visual center of our town It should be made the cultural center as well since we have no other New Braunfels needs better facilities for the MidTexas Symphony and productions such as the Red Stocking Revue I agree with Betty Lou It should be restored Our city needs a better location for the performing arts the Civic Center is far from ideal Besides thai it would a true shame to destroy such an historical and architectural landmark It could be a potential revenuemaker from con ventions concerts etc I feel it could be utilized for many things It is also a landmark you can see for miles We need to save our history The cost of demolishing is about the same as renovating the building It can really be turned into a much needed public building New Braunfels has so many buildings with so much history behind them I think they should be spared demolishing and be kept for historical reasons You dont have the pleasure of seeing such a magnificent structure very often I dont believe in wasting anything Why destroy something that can be used as useful We definitely want to save this building Having been bom and raised here some of my fondest memories include going by the LCRA build ing on our way to the wading pool Back then water could be seen spraying all along the banks of the riv er like a giant lawn sprinkler It would be a shame to destroy a building with so much potential The LCRA building would make an excellent art museum childrens It would be an asset for the entire community when renovated Looking forward to a multifaceted cultural center Newer is not always better And finally Put the wrecking ball to it and use the land for Landa Park It is an eyesore and a disgrace to Lan da Park