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TUESDAY, AUGUST 23, 2005
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EDITORIAL

Operation Brown Bag reflects poorly on city

We sincerely hope arrests for the sale of drug paraphernalia was not the latest jab in a politicized zoning dispute over the location of a Greyhound bus station.

David Deldar, owner of Corner Express Food Mart at Moulton Road West and Old Moulton Road, has been in a protracted war with Decatur City Hall over his contract with Greyhound Bus Lines for years.

There has been plenty of grandstanding from all involved in the conflict, including Mr. Deldar and City Council President Billy Jackson.

Mr. Jackson argued that the station will attract transients and criminals to Northwest Decatur.

The main problem with this argument is that it is supported by no data: There has been no evidence that transients and criminals have gotten off the bus to unleash their mayhem in the community.

The other problem with the argument is that it has nothing to do with the zoning issues involved.

With this ongoing dispute in the background, the arrest of two of Mr. Deldar's employees for selling drug paraphernalia looks suspiciously like a manifestation of the saying, "You can't beat city hall."

Also suspicious is the bizarre nature of the charges. Police said they charged his employees for selling an undercover policeman a "brown bag special." The contents of the bag included a miniature rose in a glass tube, a steel wool pad and a cigarette lighter.

By themselves these items are legal, of course. Police claim that, sold as a package, they are designed to facilitate the smoking of crack cocaine.

Did police initiate the investigation at the instruction of City Council? Did an overzealous police officer begin the investigation on his own as a way of supporting the City Council agenda?

Hopefully not. Hopefully this is simply a bizarre coincidence.

Unfortunately, whether or not Operation Brown Bag had anything to do with the bus stop controversy, it will erode confidence in the police.

What should happen now is a thorough investigation followed by full disclosure. If the investigation and arrests had anything to do with City Council, heads need to roll.

The goal of the investigation should be to convey a message to Mr. Deldar: In this city, you can fight City Hall.

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