Residents can’t rely on feds to get job done

The idea of letting “the government” take care of all our problems has become so ingrained in our collective psyche that even people in the government are starting to believe it can happen.

Three Texas county judges are complaining because the Department of State Health Services has turned down their request to start aerial spraying and other measures to fight a growing mosquito problem.

It’s no secret that standing water and heat combine to create the perfect atmosphere for mosquito infestations, and there’s plenty of pooled water all over the state (and in eastern New Mexico) after two recent tropical storms and other rains in the area.

In this particular case in the Rio Grande Valley, the flooding those rains caused led to contamination of groundwater from burst pipes, agricultural waste and other sources. The biggest concern is the contaminated water in northern Mexico, where dengue, cholera and other maladies occur with greater frequency. The vaunted border wall doesn’t hold back mosquitoes any better than it holds back anything else, so the risk of mosquitoes that spawned or drank from infested floodwaters crossing into the Valley is very real.

The state did spray after Hurricane Dolly two years ago. Texas officials, in rejecting the recent request, noted the mosquito problem isn’t as great this year, and that state funds for such activities are in shorter supply.

But Valley officials shouldn’t throw up their hands in defeat just because they can’t get taxpayers in the Texas Panhandle and elsewhere to help pay for the spraying. People are still waiting for money to come in for damages that Dolly caused. For that matter, people in Louisiana, Houston and other places are still waiting for help for their losses from hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.

At some point people need to stop waiting. At some point people need to stop expecting other people to take care of their own problems. And at some point local officials everywhere need to realize that taking care of local problems is something they were elected to do, not the back-slappers in Austin, Texas, or Santa Fe or Washington, D.C.

Local officials in the Rio Grande Valley could get together, plan a coordinated strategy and allocate resources proportionate to their need — without asking for help from taxpayers in Farwell, Muleshoe and Bovina.

Together, Valley officials could assess the real need for pest spraying, environmental concerns and logistical issues. If they decide to spray, they should have no problem finding a crop duster or other contractor willing to do the job.

Certainly, they will have to allocate the necessary resources. But they must recognize their first priority is to provide for the welfare of their constituents, and if they must reallocate assets, then so be it. Tennis centers, sports parks and other non-vital investments can wait, if public health hangs in the balance.

Local health risks are a local problem. Local officials must therefore make the decisions they were elected to make. If blanket spraying is needed, then they must find a way to get it done.

The mosquitoes aren’t waiting for the state to take action against them. Valley officials shouldn’t either.