You’ve probably heard that California is in trouble financially. No one wants to cut services and at the same time, no one wants to pay taxes. So what do you do? Ticket ticket ticket! And raise the fines for those tickets.

In the years I’ve lived in California, I’ve never seen so much traffic enforcement. They’re radaring all over the highways. And check this out–those fancy new parking meters are capable of neat tricks. For instance, it’s pretty easy to change the hours to 8 PM. 8 PM! In Oakland. Some ticket fines have more than doubled! The linkage to the financial crisis is explicit:

Oakland has raised the price of parking tickets, extended meter times to 8 p.m. in most parts of the city and is more aggressively enforcing parking violations, including in residential neighborhoods.

The decision is driven by the city’s budget woes, which deep cuts to city services alone did not solve. Falling sales and property, property transfer and hotel taxes have contributed to a $51 million decline in revenues.

One way or another, they’re going to get this money out of us. Would you rather just pay taxes or be nickled and dimed by the police? Which, of course, raises a related issue…why limit your fee collection to speeding and parking fines? Charging people for crimes, such as DUI, may be a money maker too…

Comments

  1. #1 Colin
    July 14, 2009

    “There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.”

  2. #2 LanceR, JSG
    July 14, 2009

    And charge their family for the bullet! /sarcasm

  3. #3 CRM-114
    July 14, 2009

    The best response is to avoid the police. The last ticket I got was in 1975 for forgetting that Thursday mornings the street sweeper came.

    I never park at meters because I know why they’re there — not to afford parking at a reasonable price of a few quarters for much of an hour — but to gouge trusting fools to the tune of several hundred dollars.

    I never speed, always yield to everybody, signal every turn, make full stops (shifting into park momentarily), and obey all the rules.

    When I think of the thousands of dollars I have screwed the cops out of, I almost bust out laughing.

  4. #4 OQO
    July 14, 2009

    >>> No one wants to cut services

    Yes we do. Or rather we’d like to see the public employees suffer a bit of the same unemployment everyone else does. Did you know one of the government employee unions actually has a “no layoff” clause? Others have gotten significant pay raises in the middle of a near depression. Any suggestion that maybe that’s, like, really stupid, is met with cries of anguish and the gnashing of teeth by the public employees (and the citizen ideologues) who seem to think they are some sort of protected class. It’s a complete disassociation from reality.

    >>> and at the same time, no one wants to pay taxes.

    Meanwhile, outside the tiny land of False Dichotomy (which neighbors the land of Considering A Diverse Population As A Single Entity), people don’t mind paying taxes for things that work, and not the many financial singularities that relentlessly suck up the revenue. For example, our highly funded school system with a 50% dropout rate in some areas that graduates idiots.

    The way some folks reduce it to a single lever labeled “Tax Rate” is pathetic. We want to get our money’s worth and cut much of the astonishing waste and crap before having our wallets further reamed in a near depression. Why is that so hard for the ideologues to understand?

    Oh, and California just *had* one of the (if not *the*) biggest state tax increases in US history earlier this year. Do try to keep up.

    This is a vast and complicated issue caused by a deeply broken, intractably gerrymandered and corrupt government that has enclosed itself in a reality distorion bubble.

  5. #5 JThompson
    July 14, 2009

    What OQO means by taxes paying for “things that do not work” is “things I do not use” or “things I do not like”.

    People don’t mind paying taxes? Really? So that’s why every libertarian/republican you meet is busy screaming “Taxes are theft!” until they’re blue in the face.

    Unfortunately, we’ve been painted into a corner where raising taxes is seen as being a failure as a politician. You know, because there’s absolutely nothing else to judge them by.

  6. #6 Tony P
    July 14, 2009

    That’s ok, here in Providence, RI our tax rate is going up. I knew it was going to happen because there are two things going on.

    First is that the state isn’t sharing as much revenue as it used to with the cities and towns. Second, and this hasn’t gotten really bad yet, is that when the next revaluation cycle hits they’re going to see value drops of up to 90% on some properties, many properties actually.

  7. #7 Scrabcake
    July 14, 2009

    Hahahaha. Yeah. I’ve been joking for a while that the CHiPs are trying to single-handedly get the state out of debt. I’ve gone from rarely seeing a cop car pulling someone over to seeing two or three every day.
    Bay area highways are a *goldmine*. I don’t blame them. Maybe if they get us out of debt they can put some of that money towards fixing the highway.
    http://scrabcake.blogspot.com/2009/05/oakland-road-portal.html

  8. #8 Eric L
    July 14, 2009

    why limit your fee collection to speeding and parking fines? Charging people for crimes, such as DUI, may be a money maker too…

    But what does it cost to enforce real crimes? And enforcing them may lead to locking people up, which costs a lot of money!

    Also, the real crimes are usually state or federal law, so they don’t really provide a way for the city to get money. Parking and speeding tickets it is.

  9. #9 william e emba
    July 14, 2009

    Bay area highways are a *goldmine*. I don’t blame them. Maybe if they get us out of debt they can put some of that money towards fixing the highway.

    Haha, very funny.

    I think they are just making sure they get their pay raises, increased health insurance benefits, and more paid holidays.

    You all are aware that a Republican Senator has finally come up with a health plan? http://democrashield.com/2009/07/03/gop-on-health-care-let-them-eat-cake/

  10. #10 John
    July 15, 2009

    If it’s something that was already illegal, there’s no sense in griping about actually enforcing the rules even if they were not enforced before. Why bother advocating for rules, but at the same time advocating against any penalty for breaking those rules?

    OTOH, if you’re seeing a drastic increase in police presence on the freeways, go check out the neighborhoods. This is a cycle that’s occurred before; police lose connection with communities, violent crimes increase in the absence of enforcement (or in the place of enforcement: vigilante violence), police focus on re-entering those communities.

    In other words, there’s a lot more significance to this than whether or not speeding and parking regulations should apply to *me*. Not getting a speeding ticket is so easy you don’t even have to bitch about it on the internet to do it. Not getting robbed or stabbed by that gang of disgruntled teenagers who’ve gone all lord-of-the-flies on the neighborhood can be a little more difficult. That’s something worth bitching about on the internet; but only if paired with actual participation in your local community.

    —> This is how your local representatives hear what you’re saying. Whining about tickets will earn you a little chuckle at your expense. Work it from the community end (don’t mention the tickets…) and you’ll be taken seriously. You might even make a little headway towards your goal of an unregulated freeway commute.

  11. #11 JThompson
    July 15, 2009

    @John: Ah, but there are other problems with using tickets as a form of income.
    Cities start to use underhanded means to try to turn that stream into a river…And it usually works.
    Hidden speed limit signs, changing speed limits with no sign at all, ticketing for strange violations, increasingly broadening the violations (So an air freshener becomes a 108 dollar ticket and the like), shortening the duration of yellow lights, etc.
    I could come up with a list about three pages long of absolutely crazy stuff you can be ticketed for without even bothering with google. I imagine it’d run into the hundreds if I used a search engine.
    Most of it is used in places with highway access on people that are from far enough away they’re not likely to come back and fight the ticket. That’s why they radar near highways.

    At some point it ceases to be about anything but how many tickets a cop writes. It doesn’t matter if the tickets should’ve been written or not. It’s not about deterrence, it’s about making money.

  12. #12 Tim
    July 15, 2009

    If it’s a moving violation, your insurance will cost more. Ever wonder if insurance companies were involved in prop 13?

  13. #13 catgirl
    July 15, 2009

    The most obvious solution is to legalize marijuana and tax the hell out of it. Not only would they gain money through the taxes, they would save money on court and prison costs. Other crimes would likely decrease also.

    However, rather than parking tickets, I’d like to see tickets for things that actually make driving more dangerous for others. I don’t live in CA, but in every state I’ve been too, people use turn signals less than half the time. I’d like to see cops ticketing people for that. I don’t know what the cell phone laws are in CA, but if it’s illegal to use one while driving, they should also enforce that with hefty tickets. Parking in one spot for more than 2 hours doesn’t hurt anyone, but driving recklessly endangers others.

  14. #14 Denice Walter
    July 15, 2009

    Just returned from the… *Golden* State.Even I was surprized by the sales tax *outside* SF (Sonoma County):more than 9%,I think.I live in NJ(7%, excluding some items) and spend time in NYC(8% +/ less in “upstate” counties).

  15. #15 BAllanJ
    July 15, 2009

    Maybe if they hadn’t just thrown away the revenue they could have had by charging for gay marriage licenses…

  16. #16 Lab Lemming
    July 16, 2009

    For someone who used to spend all his time bashing libertarians you sure are getting feisty these days…

  17. #17 Mark P
    July 21, 2009

    Right, everyone wants their government services but no one wants to pay for them. In one Atlanta-area county, the county commissioners were intimidated into not increasing taxes. As a result, they have announced plans to reduce some law enforcement and fire protection funding. Now everyone is mad. They all say there are other areas of waste that could be cut. But, funny thing, none of them can think of any.

  18. #18 Monado, FCD
    July 21, 2009

    Thank Darwin someone finally took my suggestion. I’ve been saying this was the answer for at least a year. Anyone who doesn’t want to pay more can just drive safely and obey the law.

  19. #19 Steve Bloom
    July 23, 2009

    Mark, IIRC a big part of Oakland’s revenue problem is the Governator’s repeal several years back of the eminently reasonable state vehicle license fee. Had that stayed in place much of this present crisis wouldn’t even exist. I would submit that this is all consistent with Grover Norquist’s vision.

    More and more, as an Oakland resident I’m just keeping my Preciousss parked.

  20. #20 Steve Bloom
    July 23, 2009

    For some details, have a look at this Digby column. Just don’t blame the drowning local governments.

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