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A Job For Jenny Durkan

Jenny Durkan, the current U.S. Attorney for Western Washington, appears to be a serious candidate to replace Eric Holder as Attorney General.  If she gets the nod, and I hope she will, one of her first and top priorities should be cleaning up St. Louis County, which recent news coverage has revealed to be one of America’s most racist metropolitan areas.

St. Louis County was deliberately balkanized into nearly 100 discrete municipal entities several decades ago for the purpose of preserving entrenched racial segregation and exploitation against the national onslaught of civil rights activism that endures today.  Ferguson is an example of how this works.  Despite being 70% black, Ferguson has a white city government and police force, and the city gets half its budget from a corrupt system that uses cops and municipal courts to shake down poor blacks.

It’s the same story in Ferguson’s neighboring municipalities.  In St. Louis County, driving two miles with expired tags can get you six tickets from different jurisdictions, each eager to suck its own quart of blood from a single infraction.

In Ferguson, as in the neighboring municipalities, the part-time municipal judges are paid around $18,000 a year for only a few hours of work a month.  Many of these judges hold court for 3 or 4 hours on only 1 day a month.  The municipal court pay nicely supplements a lawyer’s income from private law practice — it pays the office rent when business is slow.  It’s a damn nice sinecure; but to get it, you have to be white, and you have to prostitute yourself by being a “tax” collector for the city instead of a dispenser of justice.  Municipal prosecutors are in on this racket, too, as are the cops at least indirectly because their salary and equipment comes from the tickets they write.

In the interest of space, I won’t reiterate here what I’ve posted in previous articles about how abusive — and racially targeted — this ticket-writing is.  Suffice to say this system extracts, as an average, $400 to $500 a year per capita from Ferguson’s residents, many of whom get hit up for thousands of dollars of fines.  In St. Louis County, you can even get fined hundreds of dollars for not subscribing to the city’s garbage service (because you can’t afford it).  And, of course, they also fine you for being unable to pay the fines, so the financial oppression compounds like loan sharking interest.

It’s enough to say that St. Louis County’s municipal governments, courts, and police have evolved into criminal rackets that exploit the power of badge and gun to rob their poor black citizens.  Michael Brown was killed because he tried to walk away from a jaywalking ticket that would have cost him hundreds of dollars.  His death wasn’t incident to any kind of law enforcement; he was shot while being robbed.

It’s time to send in the cavalry, meaning federal agents and court orders, to take over these city halls, put them under federal supervision, and shut down their extortion rackets.  Ultimately, the feds should through court orders force the consolidation of these dozens of little municipalities into a few large ones, to be funded from regular taxes, not bullshit citations and municipal court thievery.  As I’ve previously written, those fines should go to the state, not the municipalities, to remove the incentive to write bullshit tickets for fundraising purposes.

St. Louis County’s multitude of corrupt little city halls have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that they can’t be trusted to govern.  Those places still need traffic codes, city ordinances, and police to enforce reasonable rules in a reasonable manner, without which urban living would be chaotic or impossible.  But the wrong people are running that system, and those people need to be replaced, and if citizens are unable to replace them at the ballot box, then the Attorney General should do it with court orders.  But above all, the Attorney General should focus on dismantling that whole rotten corrupt system and entirely remaking local government in St. Louis County.Roger Rabbit icon

It’s a project whose time has come.

 

 


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