When it works to his advantage, you can count on Sheriff Buck Buchanan to turn on the charm to get his way. When things are not going so well for the sheriff, he's quick to play the blame-shifting game.
Such was the case when the county first promoted the formation of a special sales tax to be used exclusively for operation and expansion of the jail.
At that time, Sheriff Buchanan told us that formation of a special jail district funded by an increase in the sales tax was just what the doctor ordered. In an Oct. 20, 1999, guest commentary in this newspaper, Buchanan said the one-fifth cent jail tax proposal was "a well thought out, fiscally responsible, sensible plan."
Now that it's time to open the new jail and the money is just not there for sufficient staffing, Buchanan is the classic Monday Morning Quarterback. "If the jail district had been implemented at a half-cent in the first place," Buchanan told the supervisors last week, "we wouldn't have been going through this."
If that is the case, why then was the sheriff cheer-leading this plan in the first place?
Likewise, at the time it was first proposed, Sheriff Buchanan wrote that the jail district "provides for the largest real property tax reduction that I am aware of in my family's 53 years in Yavapai County." He promoted the plan as one that will "move us a giant step away from our real property tax system."
Now, he's critical of the supervisors for reducing the property tax rate over the years. In recent e-mail correspondences to this newspaper, Buchanan wrote than the county has a maximum levy of $2.15 for each $100 of assessed valuation, but the tax rate is only $1.61. "WAY below most other County's. So we need to increase to 1.83? STILL way below," Buchanan wrote.
In a similar vein, Buchanan wrote that he misses "the previous years when the board seemed to be sincerely interested in doing the right thing and not just reducing the tax rate as a springboard for re-election."
Originally, he supported a plan that was, in his words, "a giant step away from our real property tax system." Today, he says, the supervisors should be taxing our property at an even higher rate than they already are. When the jail district was first proposed, he credited the supervisors for being "fiscally responsible." Now he accuses them of reducing the property tax rate — which was part of the sales-pitch trade-off for the jail district in the first place — to enhance their chances of getting re-elected.
Buchanan obviously is a master of contradiction. He'll say what he needs to say when it best serves his purpose.
Just don't hold him to it.