Tuesday, September 29, 2009

"Privatization" of Chicago's parking attracts lawsuit

Something that has greatly interested me in recent months is the mismanagement of the "privatize it" talking point. That if the government lets private companies handle government functions, "market values" will be applied rather than government values, and implying that it'll be a better deal. Since the private company has the motivation of making a profit, they have an incentive of keeping costs low.

That usually doesn't happen.

Chicago recently privatized their public parking, giving a 75 year contract, and later showed that the city undersold by about $1 billion. Surprise surprise, the rates went up. Also, humoursly, the higher rates caused meters to fill up quite fast, making it impossible to pay for a spot.

Now, the city is being sued. Apparently, Chicago police are still writing tickets for fining vehicles at expired meters. The Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization claim that police funded by tax dollars have no authority to enforce something operated by a private company and thus don't have to pay. Failure to pay the fine can cause the Secretary of State to revoke your license, which again they contest the secretary doesn't have the authority to do because it's done at a private meter.

So not only does this privatization result in higher rates for citizens and visitors, but public resources are STILL being used.

Now, one may ask why those in Indianapolis should be concerned about this. Because our city is thinking of doing the same. Rates were quoted to be going to $1.75, and possibly extending the time the meters run. The idea of meters that use credit cards or charge-by-phone was also floated in the Indianapolis Business Journal and Indianapolis Star articles on the subject.

Now, let's review recent privatization efforts, or "public-private partnerships" as the governments likes to call them:

IBM running FSSA has resulted in FSSA being run WORSE than it already was. They recently got over $1billion extra to fix the basics that they screwed up. And as previously reported, Daniels is never going to cancel the deal.

The Indiana Toll Road quickly raised rates after being privatized.

Indianapolis' residents might be seeing another increase after a recently approved 11% increase for their privately run water company.

Almost all of these have 10 years or longer in their contracts, and anyone who has ever taken a high school econ course knows that the economy can change quickly in much less time in 10 years. While citizens have some control over government agencies via their elected legislative representatives, they have little recourse if a private company screws up the work of the government. And it gets even worse when it's a government function that handles the work associated with the poor, sick, or imprisoned, because it's much more likely to be swept under the rug.

I think Indiana Republicans and Democrats need to learn what privatization actually is. Giving someone a decade+long contract with little chance of being fined/cancelled is a government deemed monopoly, not privatization

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Small Claims Court Ignores Constitution, News at 11

As if we all didn't know that the state constitution is routinely ignored by politicians all across the state, apparently now the courts are doing the same. The Indiana Law Blog reported on an interesting story published by the Evansville Courier & Press on what's going on down in Vanderburgh County's Small Claims Court:

Valisha Fleming couldn't believe what she saw happening recently in Vanderburgh County's Small Claims Court: A disabled woman with three children at home was sentenced to 30 days in jail for falling $110 behind in court-ordered payments on a debt.

Deputies were called into the courtroom, handcuffed the crying woman, patted her down in the hallway and were going to take her away. She did not have an attorney.


The judge in the case, Superior Court Magistrate Richard D'Amour, said Carter was not sentenced for failing to pay a debt, but for failing to obey an earlier court order to pay it. "It may appear to you to be a fine line," D'Amour said, "but it makes a difference."

Other Vanderburgh Superior Court judges said they agree. They contend the court is allowed to sentence and threaten to sentence people to jail if they fail to comply with court orders to pay their debts.

Katherine Rybak, attorney with Indiana Legal Services in Evansville, has long argued that the court's practice is unconstitutional. "No imprisonment for debt means no imprisonment for debt even when the debtor has the ability to pay," she said.


In the Perry County case, Circuit Judge M. Lucy Goffinet ordered a man to pay $25 a month on a debt or go to jail. The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed her ruling, saying that in such cases, "Even the threat of imprisonment is erroneous."
Just in case anyone needs a reminder, Article 1, Section 22 of the state constitution is fairly clear about all this:

The privilege of the debtor to enjoy the necessary comforts of life, shall be recognized by wholesome laws, exempting a reasonable amount of property from seizure or sale, for the payment of any debt or liability hereafter contracted: and there shall be no imprisonment for debt, except in case of fraud.

I would highly encourage you all to read the Indiana Law Blog. It is a great resource to keep up on what's going on across the state.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Cops on the Beat II: Media Bias

I believe that one of the inherent problems with how local media is run is the concept of beat reporters. A reporter is assigned to a specific group (police, fire, mayor, etc...) and they attend the press conferences all the time, collect information, and eventually become very chummy with the people they are supposed to be objectively covering.

This right here is a great example of media bias. In this case, the article is completely buying into the police side of the story, hardly gives the other guy any room to tell, and then there's the image.

Contrast the image of the deceased police officer with the truck driver, likely the picture taken while at the police station.

Now, the summary of the story is that the police officer was blaring down the road at well over 100+ miles an hour without his lights or sirens on, crashes into a truck, and dies. Police arrive at the scene, and surprise, the truck driver is kind of dazed and confused. Maybe it's because a car just plowed into his truck at 90+mph? Oh, yeah, he gets arrested and charged with a DUI and failure to yield to an emergency vehicle.

Which brings me to the finale. After someone sees the unflattering photographs, they read "The man accused of killing a Metro police officer..."

He was never charged with anything remotely resembling murder, killing, or anything of the sort. The officer drove into his truck.

Not only is that medi bias, but the truck driver could sue that news agency for defaming him.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Cops on the Beat: Take One

This time, I'm getting a little national.

Over in Georgia, a group of tri-county police officers in plain clothes shot at and killed a local pastor during a failed drug sting. The pastor, Jonathan Ayers, had given a ride to a woman who police say was the target of the investigation. But her name hasn't been released, no statement from her has been issued, and she was not at the scene of the crime.

WNEG has the video taken from a gas station security camera. In it, you can see Ayers walk into the gas station and you see a big, black van pull up. Ayers gets in his car and a bunch of people pile out of the car in jeans, and one is dressed in a wife-beater. Eye witnesses say they heard the plainclothes cops shot "Police, stop!" but who knows if Ayers could hear that, or if he'd even believe it.

I mean, cmon, when people pile out of a dark car, with no identification, guns pulled, and shot "police!" do you really think you'd believe them?

Ayers gets in reverse and barely taps an officer. He later went to a hospital to be treated for injuries, but you can clearly see him CHASING AFTER AYERS. His partner shoots twice and Ayers is wounded, crashed into a telephone pool, and dies in surgery.

His brother-in-law reports that Ayers asked paramedics "Who shot me?".

This article says the cops LIED TO HIS WIFE and said he was involved in a traffic accident, then changed to a drug scene, then she learns at a hospital that he was shot by the police.

A few quotes from the brother-in-law and a few other facts are here.

There are tons of other articles floating around. From what I hear, the CNN and AP articles are buying the police are innocent hook, line, and sinker, though I haven't read them yet. One I read even said Ayers was part of the drug investigatio. And another (this one) heavily implies that he's not innocent.

Now, I could care less about him being a pastor. This guy could've had a gram of crack, or gotten oral sex from a prostitute. That is not justification for shooting and killing a man, at all.

From my research, apparently this part of Georgia is pretty much the middle of nowhere. Do they really have a drug problem there?

Ayers' blog is located here: http://jonathanayers.blogspot.com/

A great summary, with a bunch of links I left out, is here: http://themoderatevoice.com/45307/georgia-pastor-is-latest-victim-of-americas-war-on-drugs/

Oh, and yeah, police opened fire in a gas station. Sounds like they got their training from Rambo.