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After having been called to task over how it has kept track of its money, federal funding for the Southeast Missouri Weed and Seed program appears to be back on track. The U.S. Justice Department had suspended funding for the neighborhood crime-fighting program in September after its full-time director, Calvin Bird, left. The Justice Department said the funding would be restored when all spending discrepancies were explained and corrected and a new director was hired. On Sept. 29, the board hired a permanent director. Meanwhile, the spending discrepancies were explained to the Justice Department's satisfaction, and the department announced in early October that nearly $700,000 remaining in a federal grant was being restored.

The Weed and Seed grant never was seriously jeopardized. Even the Justice Department, which oversees Weed and Seed grant programs through its U.S. attorneys' offices, said the funding would be restored once things were cleared up. It wasn't about to yank the funding for good. After all, it was the U.S. attorney's office in St. Louis that set up the Southeast Missouri program in 1998 and oversees it. The Justice Department wasn't about to come down hard on the program regardless of how it may not have followed its multitude of guidelines.

Now an audit is being done, and the Weed and Seed board should get a report in 35 to 40 days. Then the board can expect to act on recommendations in the audit.

The whole purpose of Weed and Seed is to fight crime and support grass-roots community improvement initiatives in high-crime neighborhoods of Cape Girardeau, Poplar Bluff, Sikeston, Charleston and Caruthersville. But as yet the public hasn't seen much accomplishment toward that end. Instead, it has seen a controversy over leadership and spending that has done nothing but throw a dark cloak over the operation. The public doesn't even know how the money is being spent.

Weed and Seed is another sounds-good federal program that eats up administrative costs and pays for programs that benefit few. It would be best to eliminate the entire program. Give the money to police to fight crime the way they know best. Crimefighting programs in each of the communities targeted by Weed and Seed in Southeast Missouri risk being tainted by a poorly administered, federally funded program that has yet to show why it exists.

Like so many federal programs, Weed and Seed appears to benefit bureaucrats rather than doing any real good.