Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter called it irresponsible when Gwinnett County commissioners voted to fund $19 million in cost overruns and upgrades for the new Gwinnett Braves stadium project last week.
The decision left Porter flabbergasted.
“I think the commissioners are going to have to stand up and start making some real choices instead of just bread and circuses,” he said.
Although the $19 million outlay will come from the county’s reserve fund — not the general fund, which pays for the operation of county departments — the district attorney draws little distinction.
He enumerated a list of unfunded requests he had made for his office in the 2008 budget:
• two victim assistance positions;
• one prosecutor for juvenile court;
• two assistant district attorneys for drug task force;
• one criminal investigator for white-collar and computer crime; and
• three additional investigators.
Likewise, the county sheriff’s and police departments made requests for some new positions that went unfunded.
Bert Nasuti defended the decision.
County Commissioner Bert Nasuti, who has helped lead the drive for baseball in Gwinnett, said the stadium had no influence on the 2008 budgeting process.
“Whatever shortfalls he (Porter) felt, they weren’t related to baseball,” Nasuti said, adding that serious arrangements to move the Braves’ minor league team to Gwinnett did not occur until well after the budget process for 2008 was completeted. “It wasn’t a budget influenced by baseball.”
Opportunity costs are opportunity costs. The stadium isn’t free and necessitates trade-offs in the budget. Whether the DA’s requests were next in line for the stadium funds is an open question. But, I think few voters would prefer a stadium to the above forgone positions.
UPDATE: DA Porter responds to Commissioner Nasuti.
“That’s just…that’s just not right. That’s just incorrect. The budget process in Gwinnett County begins in June. The final budget for each department is submitted in June and the baseball decisions were made in the spring.”
Addendum: I should have caught Porter’s comments in a Gwinnett Daily Post article that I linked to last week. More kudos to GDP.
At a time when the county has instituted a hiring freeze in every department other than public safety and asked firefighters and police officers to conserve fuel, District Attorney Danny Porter said he could not believe commissioners voted for the increase.
“We can’t put enough cops on the streets, we can’t put enough deputies in pods and I can’t put enough prosecutors in courtrooms, but we can play baseball. It’s absurd,” he said. “It’s an unbelievable squandering of taxpayers’ money and to pull it out of reserves is just irresponsible.”