Raymond Cravaack (R-MN-08) had a major advantage during the 2010 election campaign … no track record.
Candidate Cravaack could campaign as an US Navy veteran and prior work experience as a commercial pilot, but this was his first attempt at an elective office. Unlike the candidate who came up through the political ranks – be it local school board to state legislature – voters had no reference for how he would vote on many issues. Oh sure, Cravaack told voters that he opposed the enacted healthcare reform, but did anyone ask him if he supported COPS ?
Now, voters are learning about Mr. Cravaack and his priorities. Responding to questions about his support for H.R. 1 (the 2011 Appropriations bill), … Mr. Cravaack writes “Congress is going to have to make many hard decisions and work toward balancing our budget just like every family in Minnesota.”
But within H.R. 1 shows Mr. Cravaack’s priorities …when the question of military spending was either Yes or No … Mr. Cravaack chose to spend … but what about when there is a choice for where to spend monies ? Mr. Cravaack was give a choice NASA or COPS … it was a simple question where to spend monies … Amt #125—Anthony Weiner (D-NY): The amendment would increase funding for the Department of Justice, Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) and would reduce by a like amount funding for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The key question is, would this cut impact NASA’s mission … well consider that NASA’s Cross-Agency Support account, is an unbelievable catchall slush fund which has grown in the last 2 years from $550 million to $3 billion and which will actually be increased in this continuing resolution by $36 million …. And the Republicans proposed to cut COPS … which is more important than defending the American people from common criminals to terrorists, or sending someone to Mars?
The COPS funding was restored as Congressman Weiner’s amendment was approved but Mr. Cravaack voted AGAINST it.
What is interesting about Congressman Weiner’s amendment is that this is not the first time that he waged battle for COPS funding.
In fact, Congressman Weiner had an ally in his past efforts.
During the FY 2007 Science, State, Justice and Commerce Appropriations bill, Congressman Jim Ramstad (R-MN-03) said :
“I think it is simply wrong to shortchange public policy, and I understand the dilemma faced by the appropriators, believe me. This amendment, the Weiner-Ramstad amendment, would fund the COPS program at its fully authorized level by adding about $476 million for the program. I understand how painful that offset is to many of you who prioritize NASA, but I think we have to ask ourselves, all of us, the simple question: What is more important, spending more money to fly to Mars or keeping millions of Americans safe here on earth? That is the key question.”
That reasoned approach is what earned Congressman Ramstad such praise as “a true giant on behalf of all Minnesotans.” Congressman Ramstad fought what was right and voters continued to re-elect him by wide margins.
COPS is a good program. The COPS program was designed to help bring about fundamental changes in policing by drawing officers closer to the citizens they protect. The idea of community policing is to get away from the traditional ‘‘call and response’’ model, in which officers run from one emergency call to the next. It involves sending officers into the streets and into the neighborhoods to build relationships with residents, identify the sources of crime problems, and solve them before they get worse. The success of the COPS approach to policing is dependent upon the relationships built between the police and the members of the communities they serve.
Since 1995, COPS has awarded more than $10 billion to advance community policing, including grants awarded to more than 13,300 state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies to fund the hiring and redeployment of nearly 117,700 officers. In addition to funding law enforcement positions, the Office of Community Policing Services has been the catalyst for innovations in community policing and broad implementation of effective law enforcement strategy. Presently, departments that employ community policing serve 87 percent of American communities.
Jim Oberstar, whom Mr. Cravaack replaced in Minnesota’s Eight District, supported COPS … for example, the COPS Methamphetamine Initiative stating “Programs like this one are helping us combat the meth problem in rural America.”
With state budgets being slashed, many community policing programs are being threatened (for example, sex offender programs), why would Mr. Cravaack place his priority on spending monies on NASA instead of programs that protect citizens here ?
Some have speculated that opposition to COPS is related to the fact that many unions represent police, fire and other community workers and the current effort to rewrite collective bargaining rules … I trust that is not the case. This should not be about unions, it should be about priorities.
Erik Paulsen (R-MN-03) replaced Congressman Ramstad … and deserves our thanks for continuing to support COPS … while Mr. Cravaack is correct that “Congress is going to have to make many hard decisions and work toward balancing our budget just like every family in Minnesota”; he needs to have a heart-to-heart talk with Jim Ramstad about America’s priorities.