16 August 2008

The Newark City Council Thinks that You're an Idiot

From the second paragraph of this week's Newark Post article "Speeding fines on the rise in Newark":
"This is not intended to be a revenue-generating measure," said City Councilman David Athey.

Ummm, yeah, right.

Of course, later in the article, that same councilman is all over himself talking about what the city will do with the extra money:
Athey requested that an accounting process be established to track any increased revenue that results from the amended fine structure. "I would like to see that money invested in enhanced traffic calming measures or even public education," he said.

The article also quotes Ezra Temko's salivations on the use of the "enhanced" speeding revenue.

What is most remarkable about the article is that the city council actually believes that you are dumb enough to believe these statements. It is similarly disturbing that the Newark Post doesn't apply any of the skepticism that should be the newspaper's role. Nope, we'll just print the PR of the government without questioning it.

Similarly appalling (though more of a statement on public education): describing the fine structure as complicated or exponential, but not actually indicating the formula. It really not tough. Fine = (mph over limit)^2. Pretty simple, actually. Of course, it places a high premium on getting that initial speed limit right. Going 40 in a 35 zone, fine = $5^2 = $25. Going 40 in a 30 zone, fine = $10^2 = $100. Going 40 in a 25 zone (even if it should be a 30 or 35 zone) fine = $15^2 = $225. The NCC has even more incentive to set speed limits too low (under the auspices of safety) because of the squared relationship between fines and speed over the speed limit.

I'm not so much opposed to a modified speeding fine structure - as long as the city (a) sets speed limits reasonably (for a counterexample, see: 25 mph on Paper Mill Road); (b) enforces speed limits reasonably (I just don't see speeding as a major problem in Newark, most "speeding" is selective law enforcement for revenue generation); and (c) those salivating over speeding fines recognize that the fine is often the smallest cost for the driver (robbery by insurance companies is a much bigger issue in $ terms). And, most importantly, the focus of law enforcement must be on public safety and crime, not on revenue collection. Unfortunately, the City Council and the Newark Police Department fail on all four of those counts. They think about revenue, not the costs of their actions (including opportunity costs). Do you think the Newark PD needs more incentives to collect "speeding" fines instead of, say, actually doing something about the muggings?

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