Continue Your Support of Good Local Government

Reading Time: 4 minutes

You have another chance to improve government and fight petty tyranny by supporting Senator Eric Schmitt’s latest bill to hold local government accountable.

Last year, Senator Schmitt became the champion of responsible local government with SB-5, a bill designed to end “taxation by citation” in local governments.

This year, Senator Schmitt is back to close a loophole that some cities are exploiting to suck more money out of residents who can least afford it. SB-572 applies caps to revenue raised through tyrannical enforcement of local ordinances and building codes, some of which written explicitly to generate revenue outside the state-permitted tax laws.

Before I post  my written statement to the Senate Committee, here are some of the things you can do to promote this bill

  1. Write your State Senator and Representative asking them to support SB-572. (Click here to look up your legislators)
  2. Promote the bill to your friends and followers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media
  3. Submit a witness form supporting SB-572 before the hearing on Wednesday, January 13. (Click here for witness form)

Here is my testimony:

WRITTEN TESTIMONY OF WILLIAM T. HENNESSY, A RESIDENT OF EUREKA, MISSOUIR, IN SUPPORT OF SB-572 TO THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON JOBS, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT GIVEN JANUARY 9, 2016

To the Committee:

I strongly support SB-572, and I urge the Jobs, Economic Development and Local Government committee, the Missouri Senate, and the Missouri House of Representatives to pass the bill. I urge Governor Nixon to sign it.

Governments exist to promote the safety, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of those they govern, and governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. Everyone understands these simple truths, but we sometimes ignore them when thinking about local government. But history shows that tyranny can happen at any level of government. Let’s call this “petty tyranny.” Here are a few examples:

* In Hazelwood, Missouri, two schoolgirls were cited for selling Girl Scout cookies illegally from a stand they had constructed outside their home. These aspiring Bonnie Parkers were in violation of a city ordinance that bans the sale of commodities from people’s homes.

* In Burnsville, Minnesota, a man named Mitch Faber was charged with a building code violation and placed under arrest for failing to finish a siding project on his house, a project that had been stalled by financial troubles. After receiving an ultimatum from the city, Faber spent $12,000 on a stucco façade to cover up the partial work that had been done, only to be told by a city inspector that this was not good enough. This visit was followed up by another from the police, and Faber was taken into custody and charged with the heinous crime of remodeling his home in an unacceptable manner.

* In San Juan Capistrano, California, a town that was founded in the 1700s as a religious mission, Chuck and Stephanie Fromm were fined several hundred dollars for holding private Bible study meetings in their homes without a “conditional-use” permit. The statute that was applied prohibits religious organizations from holding services in residential neighborhoods.

* Washington, D.C. resident Patricia White has so far racked up fines totaling over $2,000 for not recycling her cat litter, which she makes at home from newspapers and junk mail. District of Columbia laws require that cat litter always be put in a recycling bin, even though Ms. White’s homemade variety is not really suitable for salvage. Employees of the Department of Public Works have discovered her violations of the rule while picking through the trash in the waste bins outside her apartment building, which is apparently something they are instructed to do at random locations throughout the city as a part of their regular duties.

* In New Orleans, volunteers from the Hope Church in Metairie, Louisiana, were stopped from handing out free water bottles with the church’s name and address imprinted on them during the most recent Mardi Gras celebration. The reason? It was because they did not have an occupational license and had not registered to pay sales tax. An agreement was subsequently negotiated that allowed the church to distribute free hand sanitizer outside of temporary porta-potties instead.

* Three young girls in Midway, Georgia, were busted by the police for selling lemonade from a homemade stand without first acquiring a business permit. In justifying the crackdown on the nefarious activities of these aspiring arch-criminals, the chief of police stated that “we were not aware of how the lemonade was made, who made the lemonade, and of what the lemonade was made.” Jack Webb as Joe Friday couldn’t have explained it more concisely.

The list of examples of petty tyranny could go on for  hours.

I understand the need for ordinances that promote safety, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But I also recognize that city governments are often seduced by the easy money from fines–taxation by citation, as Senator Eric Schmitt calls it. In our work in Ferguson and St. Louis County in 2014 and 2015, my friends and I discovered disturbing patterns of petty tyranny that drove a wedge between residents and the justice system. By treating citizens like ATMs for government, some cities in the area have built walls between government and people. People come to distrust all authority and determine to take back whatever they can. Petty tyranny kicks off an endless cycle of fines, resistance, and anger.

SB 5 was a major first step on the road to better government and freer people in Missouri. SB 572 is the logical and necessary next step on that journey.

I urge this committee to recommend SB 572 to the full Senate.

Sincerely,

William T. Hennessy

Thanks to Senator Schmitt for continuing his work for good government and against petty tyranny.

Do You Really Want Your Principles to Win?

Reading Time: 6 minutes

[I]n a democratic system, the minority is by definition the opposition. Their de facto position is fighting against the ideas of the other side. Political minorities fight against something that’s more powerful than they are. And over time, their entire self-identity can become utterly reliant on acting like the principled underdog. –Arthur C Brooks, The Conservative Heart

My developmental psychology professor told a story of a female patient.

The woman came to him for help with dating. She told the doctor, “I’ve been cheated, abused, and robbed by men. One after another, every one I date hurts me.” And she finished with a plea, “Please just tell me where all the good men are.”

The doctor thought a moment, then told her, “I know where they are, but I’m not going to tell you.”

The woman looked stunned. “Why not?” she asked.

“Because you don’t want a good man,” the doctor said. “You want abusive, cheating, thieving men.”

The psychologist was not cruel, just honest. We get what we seek, even if what we seek is bad for us. We attract what we want to attract, even if we say want something else.

Is the conservative activist like the woman? Do we really want to become a majority? Or do we want to remain a permanent minority panicking over possible smudges on the strict outline of our dogma?

Yesterday, I explained why we do what we do. Today, we look at how we can be more effective.

A Minority Mentality

Back in 2009 and 2010, the Tea Party had hopes. We hoped to see our principles become the majority view in America.

We watched our favorability swell from zero on February 26 to over 30 percent a year later. Then we watched our esteem drift away. Only 19 percent now say they agree with our principles.

Arthur C. Brooks contends in his new book The Conservative Heart: How to Build a Fairer, Happier, and More Prosperous America that the Tea Party can and should become a massive social movement that achieves majoritarian status.

So why hasn’t it? According to Brooks:

A key element of majoritarian status is fighting in broad terms for people instead of fighting narrowly against particular evils.

Yet, “fighting narrowly against particular evils” is exactly the only thing we’ve done. Even our work to help reform municipal courts and police practices was a fight against a particular evil because we never effectively explained why we fought. That’s probably my fault.

In my mind, abusive courts and city governments that use the police to shake down poor people for money represent the sort of government overreach the Tea Party exists to fight. But that’s still a fight against something evil. Whom were we fighting for?

We were fighting for poor people, largely African-American, who have been treated like ATM machines for little city governments. We were fighting for the dignity of our neighbors. While those neighbors have self-appointed civil rights advocates who enrich themselves while people’s lives worsen, the only group fighting against court abuse was a liberal team of lawyers called Arch City Defenders. Missouri being deep red at the state legislature level, Arch City Defenders had no hope of changing the law without help from the right.

So that’s whom we fought for: we fought for people who needed us whether they supported us or not.

But I never said it that way because I was afraid I’d turn off some of our supporters. So I deserve a lot of the blame for where we stand.

When I read Brooks’s chapter on the Tea Party, I felt like a failure. But I also felt a surge of hope radiate through my body because Brooks didn’t stop with a critique; he gave the prescription.

But first, Brooks described the crossroads at which we stand:

The Tea Party rebellion, and the conservative grassroots it has energized, thus have some choices to make: Does it want to remain at step one, settle for 19 percent support (and falling), and become a permanent political remnant—capable of setting political brushfires, but too weak to bring about real lasting change in our nation? Or does it want to make a run at majority status and build a popular social movement that changes our country forever? Do Tea Party activists want to remain little more than the guardian of fiscally conservative orthodoxy holding the Republican establishment’s feet to the fire? Or can the Tea Party become something bigger—a transformational, majoritarian force in American politics that does not simply rebel against American decline, but reverses it?

If we want to become a transformational, majoritarian force that reverses the problems of statism, we must ask ourselves whether we actually want to win. As Brooks notes, and others have noted before:

Believe it or not, not everyone wants to be in the majority. Some people prefer to belong to a “remnant,” a holdout that bravely carries the truth without compromise in the face of overwhelming opposition.

Guardians of the Orthodoxy

My fear is that we too easily see ourselves as guardians of the orthodoxy, that “remnant” tsk-tsking anyone who gets too close the walls of acceptable thought.

While the dogma must have its defenders, preaching the dogma guarantees that we remain nothing more than an irritant to the Republican establishment and a godsend to progressives.

Why? Because most people don’t care about our dogma. They care about getting through life the best they can. And it’s not their job to figure out how our orthodoxy helps them do that.

Our job is to translate our principles into broad, moral direction for our country with specific goals that will make people’s lives better. Shouting “liberty,” repeating historical chants like “give me liberty or give me death,” don’t improve anyone’s life, even the speaker’s.

Brooks explains:

There are four steps to making that transition from minority to majority and turning a protest movement into a broad-based social movement:

1. Launch a rebellion

2. Declare majoritarian values

3. Claim the moral high ground

4. Unite the country behind an agenda

We accomplished step 1 with aplomb. We didn’t stop at step 1, but we still have not moved to step 2. Instead, many of us moved to guarding the orthodoxy of anti statism about which Buckley wrote in his essay “Have You Ever Seen a Dream Walking?”

There exists a small breed of men whose passionate distrust of the state has developed into a theology of sorts, or at least into a demonology, to which they adhere as devotedly as any religious fanatic ever attempted to adhere to the will of the Lord. I do not feel contempt for the endeavor of this type. It is intellectually stimulating to discuss alternatives to municipalized streets, even as it is to speculate on whether God’s wishes would better be served if we ordered fried or scrambled eggs on this particular morning.

Buckley then describes precisely the problem Brooks talks about:

Yet conservatives must concern themselves not only with ideals, but with matters of public policy, and I mean by that something more than the commonplace that one must maneuver within the limits of conceivable action.

Buckley’s prescription for those who want to remain tablet-keepers: let them.

I repeat, I do not deplore their influence intellectually; and tactically, I worry not all.

And Brooks reminds us that we never abandon our principles:

Making the transition from a rebellion to a social movement does not mean we cease opposition to bad things. It means that we stop leading with what we are against. We lead with the people we are fighting for.

If we don’t believe in our principles, we must abandon them. But if we believe our principles are just and moral, we have a moral obligation to make the transition from rabble-rousers to a social movement.

The Next Step

If we want to become a majoritarian movement and change America for the better, we need to choose. And we need to choose soon.

Brooks’s challenge is not a mere political choice but a moral choice. In his view, we conservatives will fail our moral duty if we choose to remain tablet keepers.

Lifting vulnerable people up and giving everyone a chance to earn success is primarily a matter of compassion and fairness. And approximately 100 percent of Americans care about these things. As New York University social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has shown, virtually everybody—right and left, young and old, religious and nonreligious—has “moral taste buds” that crave the universal values of compassion and fairness.

Bringing our principles to policy is our moral duty, and we should let nothing stand in the way of that duty.

As Brooks says, we conservatives have the solution to the problems progressives claim they’re solving.

[P]rogressive politicians try to help the poor with government redistribution programs that frequently exacerbate the problem. These intrusions lower opportunity, reduce our ability to create actual private-sector work, leave more people dependent on the state, and effectively split the country into two Americas even more quickly.

Our solutions will lift people up, not keep them down. Our solutions solve problems rather than keeping a lid on rebellion.

When we are burdened with knowledge and means to promote justice, we incur the duty to take action.

If you read one book this summer, read  The Conservative Heart: How to Build a Fairer, Happier, and More Prosperous America by Arthur C. Brooks, President of the American Enterprise Institute.

Will the Left Fund a Campaign to “Fix” Missouri? **UPDATE**

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Updated with new information

Leftist donors flooded Texas with money for two years.

Wendy Davis was the poster-child in 2014, but she was only a candidate of convenience. Leftists know that turning Texas purple would mean leftist domination in America. In 2013 “purple Texas” was all the talk. From Huffington Post:

Last week, Politico reported that national Democrats are creating a “large-scale independent group” aimed at turning Texas into a legitimate electoral battleground.

This is no mere pipe dream. It’s eminently doable.

Why would Missouri attract some of that fire?

Because Missouri got the left’s attention. First, there’s the problem with municipal courts. Next came the problem of the GOP’s whisper campaign against Tom Schweich.

Schweich told friends that John Hancock was telling people Schweich was Jewish while Hancock worked for Schweich’s GOP gubernatorial rival (and establishment darling) Catherine Hanaway. The story broke the day Schweich died.

After Schweich’s suicide, the Missouri GOP establishment circled the wagons around the alleged mastermind of that whisper campaign, state party chairman John Hancock. Hancock went on the offensive, boasting that not a single person came forward to corroborate Schweich’s story.

Hancock’s last line of defense fell today

David Lieb, the AP reporter who broke the story of Schweich’s allegations against Hancock, reports that a Republican donor has stepped forward to corroborate Scheich’s story.

Republican businessman and donor David Humphreys released a signed affidavit saying Republican consultant John Hancock, who later was elected head of the party, told him on Nov. 24 that Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich was Jewish.

Hancock effectively called David Humphreys a liar. Hancock’s other option would be to resign.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (via stltoday.com) that Paul Mouton, who attended the November 24 meeting with Hancock an Humphreys, says he did not hear Hancock mention that Schweich is Jewish.

Why Would the Left Target Missouri?

Missouri flummoxes politicos. We elected a veto-proof Republican legislature and a reform-proof Democrat administration. In 2008, Obama came within an eyelash of winning the state, but in 2012 Romney walked away with Missouri in a laugher. While our 10 Electoral votes don’t compare with Texas’s 38, the race 270 means every vote is precious. And when it comes to statewide races, Missouri is purple.

Further, because Missouri has fewer voters than Lone Star state, the left could reason that a dollar goes farther in the here than in Texas.

So don’t be surprised if the Soros crowd pours money to “fix” Missouri. After all, the Missouri Republican establishment shows no intention of fixing itself. It won’t even acknowledge the problem.

My solution? Elect a governor who rides above the slime of Missouri politics. If he runs, I’m supporting Eric Greitens. I have no need to whisper.

 

Maybe Police Officers Would Rather Be Tax Collectors

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Do people become cops just so they can write speeding tickets?

According to the National Sheriffs’ Association, writing speeding tickets is a police officer’s noblest calling. People and technologies that help drivers drive more safely and obey the law interfere with that noble mission of revenue generation, and the NSA is out to stop it.

According to the Associated Press, the National Sheriffs’ Association wants to crack down on the popular traffic navigation app Waze™ so that people will drive faster and cops can write more tickets.

Here’s the cops’ logic. Waze™ warns drivers of speed traps. Drivers slow down, so the police don’t get write tickets.

I know this sounds like I’m explaining it to a child, but don’t get offended. I’m going to explain traffic safety to the people at the National Sheriffs’ Association, and they seem to be a rather slow lot.

The reason we authorize police to write speeding tickets is to discourage people from speeding. Some people think that speeding increases danger. If we could find a way to discourage speeding and encourage safe driving, we wouldn’t need police writing tickets.

Waze encourages safe driving by warning drivers of hazards, including speed traps. If driving slower and paying attention to hazards reduces the number and severity of accidents, then Waze works better than speed traps.

I know it’s politically correct to say that police don’t want to be speed-trap queens; they want to protect and serve the public. But the National Sheriffs’ Association clearly wants to write more tickets. And to write more tickets, they must encourage people to drive dangerously.

I would love for my many friends who are current or former police officers to answer this question: do you want everyone to drive safely or would you rather write lots of tickets for dangerous driving?

I’ll send your answers to the National Sheriffs’ Association.

Do Police Officers Like Writing Tickets?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

What do police officer think about traffic ticket quotas? Here’s one officer’s thoughts:

In my agency, those of us in patrol had to keep a “Daily.” This would be a formal document that showed the times, addresses where we went, written in code, of what we had done.

On the back were boxes for how many traffic citations, criminal citations, parking citations and felony and misdemeanor arrests we had made on that day.

I frequently commented that the form didn’t represent how many people we stopped from committing suicide. Or how many domestic disputes we settled or how many missing children we found. So that “daily” never really adequately represented what my day really involved and often, by the numbers, could look as though I did nothing at all.

Read Quote of India L. J. Mitchell’s answer to Do police officers have monthly ticket quotas? on Quora

My dad was a city police officers in the 1950s and 1960s.

We were talking about cities that use the police force as a taxing agency last week. I gathered that my dad’s captain thought he was a little lax in issuing citations.

“My captain’d say, ‘why aren’t you writing more tickets, Hennessy?'” Dad told me. “And I’d say, ‘I didn’t see anybody do anything wrong.'”

One time his sergeant rode with him. The sergeant wanted to show him how to spot a moving violation. “Follow anybody for 5 minutes, and they’ll commit a violation,” the sergeant told him.

The sergeant spotted a car with a burned-out headlight. “Get him,” he told my dad.

“He’s got his family in the car, Sergeant.”

“I don’t care, Hennessy. It’s a violation. Pull him over.”

So my dad did.

“I’m sorry to do this to you with your family in the car, but my sergeant’s with me,” my dad told the driver.

The driver said, “I understand, officer. And I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but did you know you have a headlight out too?”

My dad looked back at the cruiser. Sure enough, a headlight was out.

“Gimme that ticket back,” he told the driver.

When Dad got back in the cruiser, he told his sergeant, “we have a burned out headlight, too, so I tore up the ticket.”

The sergeant, embarrassed, said, “just take me back to station. And get this car fixed.”

Police have a duty to enforce the law. Dangerous stretches of road require additional policing and strict enforcement of codes. I would never argue otherwise.

But there real value of police officers is their service. Like the officer quoted at the top  of this post said. Cities that use their police and courts to raise revenue don’t count lives saved or disasters averted when rating officers.

My dad liked being a presence in the community. He preferred walking the beat on foot patrol to riding in a car. “You never know what’s going on in a car,” he told me. “And nobody knew who you were.”

Ordinances are intended to increase safety and minimize danger to citizens. They’re not revenue streams. At least they shouldn’t be. The fine associated with safety tickets is a deterrent to the violator, not a tax for the government.

But too many St. Louis County cities use police and courts as a hidden tax on residents, visitors, and transients. Then people lose faith in police, in courts, and in the “system.” As Arch City Defenders found:

Many residents feel that municipal courts exist to collect fine revenue, not to dispense justice. “Absolutely they don’t want nothing but your money,” one defendant said, but “you get people out here who don’t make a whole lot of money.”38 He then described the startlingly common experience of being arrested, jailed, and instructed to call everybody he could think of who might have money to pay his fine—with the promise of three or four days in jail if he could not cobble together the sum.

That’s called a shakedown. How do shakedowns promote safety or dispense justice?

They don’t. They just piss people off and destroy communities.

I’m not excusing or condoning the terrorism that went on in Ferguson  I’m saying some St. Louis County municipalities abuse their police and courts, making residents despise and distrust the law. And when the people distrust the law, the lawless have an open door to wreck havoc on the community.

And, to some degree, that’s what happened. That’s what Tom Schweich, Eric Schmitt, and others are trying to fix.

What No One Tells You About Ferguson

Reading Time: 6 minutes

There’s something happening here
But what it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware
–“For What It’s Worth” by The Buffalo Springfield

“This isn’t about Michael Brown.”

Those words popped out of my mouth as I watched the Sunday evening news with my dad. It was August 10.

Full-scale rioting hadn’t erupted, but the battle lines were drawn: police on one side, people, mostly young people, on the other.

There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
Young people speaking’ their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind

St. Louis County has 91 municipalities. On the other side of the state, Jackson County, similar in area and population to St. Louis County, has 14.

Those 91 municipalities compete with their neighbors for business and residents. And revenue. To compete, these cities promise services and systems to current and potential residents.

Services and systems cost money.

For decades, especially the decades after World War II, cities like Ferguson relied on burgeoning populations and suburban migration to fund municipal services. To attract housing developers, shopping mall developers, and manufacturers, cities built skating rinks, water parks, and recreation centers from the late 1940s to late 1990s–the post-war.

Demographics

I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I re-read the paragraph three or four times to make sure I got it right. Then, I put the book down to ponder its meaning.

Thomas Barnett, a Harvard and Pentagon Russian scholar, wrote a book in 2003 about the post-Cold War era. The book is fantastic, but one idea stood out:

World human population would reach its peak around 2050.

Why did that knock me on keester?

For all of human history, human population only grew. Sure, some catastrophes temporarily knocked the people count back a bit: the black plague, the Spanish Flu, WWII. But those were rare, mass disasters. What Barnett predicted is not a disaster, but a part of human evolution: Peak Humanity.

The consequences of falling population are huge, and only a few scholars even to think about what it might mean.  Some consequences:

  • Aging population
  • Rising healthcare costs as a percentage of total spending
  • Housing gluts
  • Falling aggregate demand for goods and services
  • Abandoned cities
  • Shortage of physical laborers
  • Reduced wealth
  • Government defaults
  • Empty pension accounts

To some degree, civilization is a Ponzi scheme. As long as the next generation is bigger than the last, everything’s cool.

We borrowed money in the 1950s and 1960s to build huge high schools. Then, the high school population peaked in 1982, the year I graduated. (Coincidentally, drug use and teen drinking also peaked that year.) Because of that, my alma mater, Bishop DuBourg High School, has a completely unused 4th floor and lots of repurposed classroom space on the other floors. Built in the 1950s to house 3,000 students, the building now hosts fewer than 600–about the size of my graduating class.

The Millennials will be the largest generation in American history. And the first wave of Millennials are in their 30s.

What’s become clear to me since reading Barnett’s book in 2004 is that Peak Humanity is unevenly distributed.

Japan reached its zenith in the 1980s–and its economy stagnated. Europe peaked in the 1990s–and its economy stagnated. The United States, ex-immigration, sits at its peak right now.

Why does it matter? As geopolitical strategist George Friedman points out in his book Then Next 100 Years:

Traditionally, declining population has meant declining power. For Europe, this will indeed be the case. But for other countries, like the United States, maintaining population levels, or finding technological ways to augment a declining population, will be essential if political power is be retained in the next hundred years.

While Friedman and Barnett concerned themselves with national and global issues of population decline, we can scale down the effects of shrinking populations to the municipal or even township level.

Detroit, for example, was the wealthiest city in the world for half of the twentieth century. Not New York or London, but Detroit. The automobile, geography, and prohibition contributed to Detroit’s economic power, but population growth was both a cause and an effect.

Where is Detroit today? Since the 1950s, Detroit has lost more than 60 percent of its population. At first, people moved to the suburbs. More recently, people have fled the region entirely. Detroit is bankrupt, and its political leaders are looking for ways to dismantle much of the city’s buildings and infrastructure.

St. Louis City has lost almost two-thirds of its population over the same period. Like Detroit, the exodus to the suburbs, like Ferguson, kept the region strong. But St. Louis County has been losing population since the late 1990s, and that trend is likely to continue. If St. Louis County re-absorbs St. Louis City in the future, that population decline will accelerate.

What’s more important than the macro-migration pattern is the micro-migration pattern. The middle class moves the farthest and the fastest. The wealthy follow. The poor stay. As the city declines, rich liberals push government to provide more and more services to the remaining poor. Businesses push government to provide more attractions and distractions to pull in revenue from visitors. But the tax base shrinks.

As the wealthy finally abandon the decaying cities, power shifts to community representatives of the poor–representatives whose only skill is pushing government for more poverty programs, services, and hand-outs. But they demand these services of governments facing shrinking tax bases.

What happens next? At this point, cities turn their police departments into tax collectors. Contemporary Sheriffs of Nottingham who take from the poor and give to the government. “To protect and serve,” comes to mean “to protect the government’s revenue and to serve warrants upon the indigent.”

Growing up in South St. Louis with a father who served on the St. Louis Police Department for a decade, we learned to respect police officers. The Officer Friendly program brought city police into schools to talk to kids about their jobs.

By the time we got our driver’s licenses, we were experts at navigating around St. Louis’s infamous speed traps. Marlborough, a tiny village just outside the city limits along Watson Road and home of the Coral Courts Motel, was the most notorious.

Marlborough rose along Route 66 and prospered during America’s westward migration. Post-war travellers to the Grand Canyon and magical California breathed economic life into towns Marlborough. By 1970, I-70, the nation’s first interstate highway, conspired with air travel to starve Marlborough of its primary source of revenue: transient vacationers.

Wanting to hold onto its power despite its transient population decline, Marlborough’s leaders ironically turned upon the very instrument of its growth: the car and driver. With fewer visitors to its hotels, restaurants, and shops, Marlborough set up multiple speed traps and confusing traffic ordinances to extract money from drivers, resident or not.

As young drivers, often hauling a cooler of Micholob Light in the trunk, we avoided Marlborough like the plague.

Since the early 80s, more speed traps have emerged in St. Louis County. Ballwin, Bel-Ridge, Breckenridge Hills, St. Ann, Bridgeton, Beverly Hills, Glendale, and many more.

The city police still have a reputation for using the traffic ticket for safety. But the city police are dying breed. If St. Louis County is increasingly a modern day Nottinghamshire where police officers use the power of their office to tax residents through tickets for petty  ordinance violations.

On top of the onerous ticketing policies, municipal courts serve as backup revenue generators. Florissant recently held traffic court in a school gymnasium because of so many defendants. The courts assess contempt fines for bizarre violations, like clothing, chewing gum, and even talking quietly to a neighbor. A fifty-dollar ticket can quickly turn in to a $800 fine with contempt and failure to appear charges.

One woman told me her grandmother was cited for leaving three trash cans at the curb after 3:00 pm on trash day. The fine was $150 per can, or $450. The woman couldn’t afford to pay and she doesn’t go out after dark, so she missed her court date. A warrant and a $600 fine for failure to appear.

Whatever that woman was taught to think of police officers as a little girl in 1950s, imagine her opinion of the profession today. Imagine her “respect” for the court system? For the rule of law?

I think it’s time we stop
Children, what’s that sound?
Everybody look – what’s going down?

“This isn’t about Michael Brown.”

And it never was. The riots of August were about big government. They were about governments that gorged themselves on growing populations, bribed residents with services and distractions that governments should never offer, and politicians who bought loyalty with high-paying, taxpayer-funded jobs. Now, those governments feed off the poor to maintain the government’s bloated lifestyle.

Michael Brown was only a spark. Tax-collection through police was the kindling. Abusive municipal courts were the gasoline.

Now, Ferguson plans to pay for clean-up efforts with . . . you guessed . . . increased fines.

I couldn’t believe the opening paragraph of this story from Bloomberg:

Ferguson, Missouri, which is recovering from riots following the August shooting death of an unarmed black teenager by a white policeman, plans to close a budget gap by boosting revenue from public-safety fines and tapping reserves.

(h/t ZeroHedge)

The stupidity of government knows no bounds. It’s time we stop.

And now for my favorite song from the 60s