Thursday, October 29, 2015

Tax farming

You have been cited for traffic violations and ordered to appear in court under the authority of... some private management company with a school charter somewhere.

Individual charter schools in New Orleans could soon be allowed to install traffic-enforcement cameras on school buses, according to a proposal pending before the City Council.
City Councilman Jared Brossett said a law passed in 2010 allows the New Orleans Police Department to contract with three entities — the Recovery School District, the Orleans Parish School Board, and Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education — to put traffic cameras on their buses for bus stop sign enforcement.

The proposed amendment would allow for individual charter groups to enter into their own contracts individually, Brossett said at a recent meeting of the council’s transportation committee.
“Because the bus contracts are held by the charter organizations, it’s opening it up for that to be contracted directly,” said Tracy Mercadel, executive director of site services of the Algiers Charter School Association, said.

Mercadel said the contracts will still be overseen by NOPD.

“It still has to be managed by the city with the New Orleans Police Department so it’s nothing changing. It’s just opening an opportunity for the charter groups,” Mercadel said.
"Opening an opportunity" for what?  To cash in on a tax farming license
In ancient times, rulers relied on a practice now known as "tax farming" in which tax collection was outsourced to other groups or individuals who maintained order in particular areas and passed on revenue to the monarch. The abuse that resulted from this system is thought to be one reason for the fall of the Roman Empire.

In modern times, governments are again turning to private companies to enforce certain laws and charge fees. A new report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, titled Caution: Red Light Cameras Ahead; The Risks of Privatizing Traffic Law Enforcement and How to Protect the Public details how as many as 700 communities across as many as 28 states contract out to private companies that install and operate automated red-light or speed cameras and then send tickets in the mail to the owners of cars caught on film for legal violations. According to the report, one in five Americans live in a jurisdiction that outsources traffic ticketing this way.
Jefferson Parish residents actually sued over traffic cameras a few years ago.. and won... sort of. They actaully won a half-victory on appeal and reached a settlement afterward.  
Though the appellate judges agreed there was no merit to arguments that the red-light camera system was unconstitutional, they said they could not tell precisely what the parish’s role was in creating or enforcing the rules governing the program.

The judges also questioned, among other things, whether ticketed drivers received proper notice of proceedings against them in parish court and whether the District Attorney’s Office could prosecute the tickets. Further, they said Sullivan’s ruling in favor of Redflex and the parish prevented the plaintiffs from having a chance to get a full accounting of the money the program collected.
Strange ruling, really. They're saying it's constitutional but also here are several due process issues they have with it so...

Regardless it's a designed ripoff meant to, of course, increase parish revenue, but also benefit the for-profit company responsible for the cameras. In Jefferson, here is how that loot was split.
The contract between the School Board and ONGO Live directs 60 percent of the bus camera revenue to the company, 20 percent to the school system and 20 percent to the Sheriff's Office, which has deputies review the gathered footage of drivers. School officials said the district's share comes to about $20,000 a year and goes toward buying computers.
The MC Messenger story doesn't mention what sort of take the for profit (yes they are)  charter operators will get. Does anybody know?  

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