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Old 02-10-2016, 04:53 PM
Fotheringay-Phipps is offline
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Ferguson: Where is the money supposed to come from?


Ferguson City Council wants to revise an agreement negotiated with the Justice Department due to concerns about the cost. Mayor: Ferguson ready to take on Justice Department
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The push to amend the deal comes after Knowles and council members raised concerns it could cost nearly $10 million over the next three years to implement.

The city of 21,000 has a budget of about $14 million and is facing about $2.8 million in debt after the August 2014 police shooting death of an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, sparked sometimes violent protests. Much of the debt accrued from police overtime during the unrest following Brown's death and lost tax revenue from businesses destroyed or badly damaged in rioting.
Justice responded by suing Ferguson.

I wonder about the Justice Department position. Ferguson is a dirt poor city as it is. (And they are apparently going to lose some revenue that they used to make on fines, as part of their reform.) Now they suddently need to come up with a 20% increase in their budget.

Where is the extra money supposed to come from? Does the Justice Department have some sort of great money-making scheme here, or do they just not give a flip about that?

I would also appreciate some comment from the legal experts here. Suppose the Justice Department prevails in court but the city says "that's all very nice but we don't have the money for that". What does a judge do?
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Old 02-10-2016, 05:01 PM
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The extra money is supposed to come from wherever the city planned to get it when they entered into the consent decree. The city is essentially welching on a settlement agreement.

As to what happens if they really don't have it, the judge's powers depend on what statute the provisions of the decree were reached under. The court's powers to enforce orders made under federal civil rights legislation are far reaching; for example, the federal court that heard the Kansas City desegregation case was able to order not just the city but the state to pony up large amounts of money to build a single school system (and probably overstepped his authority a bit).

Last edited by Really Not All That Bright; 02-10-2016 at 05:02 PM.
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Old 02-10-2016, 05:02 PM
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The city could declare bankruptcy.
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Old 02-10-2016, 05:06 PM
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The extra money is supposed to come from wherever the city planned to get it when they entered into the consent decree.
They're saying they didn't appreciate how much it would cost until they completed an analysis recently. They never had a plan to get that much money.
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The city is essentially welching on a settlement agreement.
That's not my understanding of what happened. City negotiators worked out a deal with the JD, but it was never ratified by the City Council. By the time it came up for a vote, they had completed their cost analysis and decided they needed it amended.

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As to what happens if they really don't have it, the judge's powers depend on what statute the provisions of the decree were reached under. The court's powers to enforce orders made under federal civil rights legislation are far reaching; for example, the federal court that heard the Kansas City desegregation case was able to order not just the city but the state to pony up large amounts of money to build a single school system (and probably overstepped his authority a bit).
That doesn't address the question (besides for the fact that the decree was never entered into, as above). The state had the money, or at least can come up with it. The question here is if Ferguson doesn't and can't.
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Old 02-10-2016, 05:09 PM
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Obviously the city can cut other parts of its budget--which will be painful to the citizens.
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Old 02-10-2016, 05:12 PM
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Here's some more detail of the negotiating history. http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/f...5bd0205ce.html

It seems pretty clear that RNATB was mistaken in his assertion that the decree has already been agreed to and is in force.

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Obviously the city can cut other parts of its budget--which will be painful to the citizens.
I don't know if it's obvious that a city already in financial straights can cut 20% out of their budget.

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Old 02-10-2016, 05:15 PM
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That's not my understanding of what happened. City negotiators worked out a deal with the JD, but it was never ratified by the City Council. By the time it came up for a vote, they had completed their cost analysis and decided they needed it amended.
Ah, you are correct. I misread the USA Today article and thought it had said the city had approved the consent decree.
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That doesn't address the question (besides for the fact that the decree was never entered into, as above). The state had the money, or at least can come up with it. The question here is if Ferguson doesn't and can't.
It's a tricky question because the liability of a state for debts and judgments against its subdivisions is a tricky area of law. If you're asking me to pretend that the state doesn't exist and to consider Ferguson in a vacuum, I don't know.

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Old 02-10-2016, 05:22 PM
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Cut the police force by two thirds. There's very little crime in Ferguson. It was only white cops harassing Black people anyway.
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Old 02-10-2016, 06:54 PM
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Perhaps we will discover that the means by which the counties in and around St Louis are broken up is economically nonviable and some sort of realignment is in order.
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Old 02-10-2016, 07:01 PM
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That's not my understanding of what happened. City negotiators worked out a deal with the JD, but it was never ratified by the City Council. By the time it came up for a vote, they had completed their cost analysis and decided they needed it amended.
And so the City Council decided to amend the agreement without going back to the DOJ to re-negotiate. Sounds pretty one-sided.
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Old 02-10-2016, 07:24 PM
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Yeah, judging by how fast they acted I'd say the DoJ also believes it was a one-sided action.

It'll be interesting to see how it plays out. The City Council HAS to be acting to try to get a better deal. But that plan fails if the DoJ just starts slapping them around with lawsuits they're bound to lose.
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Old 02-10-2016, 08:20 PM
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Maybe they could start taxing the top few percent of earners locally in Ferguson since previously they've been fleecing the poorest for years or even generations. If they already have a local tax, which I doubt, then they should raise it starting with the highest earners.
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Old 02-10-2016, 08:44 PM
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That's the question, what are the limits of what the DOJ can do? Can they disband the city and county?
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Old 02-10-2016, 08:48 PM
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Maybe they could start taxing the top few percent of earners locally in Ferguson since previously they've been fleecing the poorest for years or even generations. If they already have a local tax, which I doubt, then they should raise it starting with the highest earners.
I used to live in Florissant which borders Ferguson. There probably aren't any top earners still living there.
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Old 02-10-2016, 08:51 PM
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I used to live in Florissant which borders Ferguson. There probably aren't any top earners still living there.
Right. The per capita income in Ferguson, MO is only $17,661, much less than the US average.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Missou..._capita_income
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Old 02-10-2016, 09:01 PM
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That's the question, what are the limits of what the DOJ can do? Can they disband the city and county?
It's a legal gray area. For most of American history, municipal finance was fairly straightforward. City and county governments set local revenue policies and spent money more or less as they wished. Only recently have we had judges and now the Dept. of Justice stepping in and ordering local governments to spend enormous amounts of money on various things, without providing the money. The case of Missouri vs. Jenkins in 1977, which Really Not All That Bright referenced, was a groundbreaking case in that respect. You can read all about it here.

What would happen if a city or county totally refused to comply or was financially unable to comply has probably never been established because it hasn't happened. There are precedents for cities going bankrupt, and it tends to not be pretty.
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Old 02-11-2016, 07:45 AM
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Perhaps we will discover that the means by which the counties in and around St Louis are broken up is economically nonviable and some sort of realignment is in order.
How does that work? Could the JD force some adjacent community to merge with Ferguson? I don't see how they can do that.
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And so the City Council decided to amend the agreement without going back to the DOJ to re-negotiate. Sounds pretty one-sided.
It's not. They need to approve the agreement for it to take effect. They said they would approve it with certain amendments but not otherwise.

This type of thing is pretty SOP, where negotiators work out a deal but still need to submit it for ratification by the membership or BOD etc.
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But that plan fails if the DoJ just starts slapping them around with lawsuits they're bound to lose.
The DoJ has lost one case of this sort. But in that case the judge found insufficient evidence of discrimination. I don't know how it works if the pivotal issue is not the discrimination itself but the scope of the remedy.

The core problem for the city is not just the expansive reach of the relevant statutes, but the vast resouces that the DoJ can bring to bear, which can itself crush a small and poor town like Ferguson. The settlement would cost millions that the city can't afford but fighting it would also cost millions that the city can't afford.

This is not at all unusual. It's like when union negotiators hammer out an agreement with management and then need to submit it to the membership for a vote. Or like when the State Department works out the details of a treaty and then submits it for ratification by the Senate. And so on, for any number of situations.
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Old 02-11-2016, 08:05 AM
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Cut the police force by two thirds. There's very little crime in Ferguson. It was only white cops harassing Black people anyway.
This isn't true, of course.

I think Ferguson needs to get creative. Raise traffic fines, and aggressively pursue those who default. But mostly for white people. That should make the Justice Department happy. Think of it as affirmative action for traffic offenses. No quotas, nothing unfair - simply widen the pool, the way affirmative action should work.

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Old 02-11-2016, 09:12 AM
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While I don't think that the DoJ could order a breakup or merger of municipalities - that's certainly outside of their purview - I could see cold, hard economics requiring it.

It seems clear at this point that a system like Ferguson's - in which the city relies on abusing its citizenry to cover expenses - is unfeasible. Either the city must cut back its spending - which seems unlikely - or economies of scale should be achieved somehow. Whether that's an actual merger with nearby cities or just a merging of services somehow is an unknown.

Alternately, I could just see Ferguson giving up its incorporation and making it the counties problem. It wouldn't be the first time such has happened. But a lot of cushy government gigs would evaporate so I see that as unlikely to occur.

Still, the city council of Ferguson is unlikely to like any of their options. But that's what happens when things get to this point.
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Old 02-11-2016, 09:29 AM
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While I don't think that the DoJ could order a breakup or merger of municipalities - that's certainly outside of their purview - I could see cold, hard economics requiring it.

It seems clear at this point that a system like Ferguson's - in which the city relies on abusing its citizenry to cover expenses - is unfeasible. Either the city must cut back its spending - which seems unlikely - or economies of scale should be achieved somehow. Whether that's an actual merger with nearby cities or just a merging of services somehow is an unknown.
It might "require it" on Ferguson's end. But I don't see why an another entity would want to take that on themselves.

It's worth noting that one of the modifications that Ferguson wants is that the consent decree not be binding on any other entity such as might take over the policing. This is because they're thinking of turning over the policing to the county, and the county has apparently indicated that they won't take it if subject to the consent decree.

[BTW, the last paragraph of my prior post was not supposed to be addressed to you - it was originally the second paragraph of my response to Rick Kitchen. But I lost track of it and briefly rewrote the paragraph in responding to Rick, and it somehow got to the end of the post. My apologies for any confusion.]
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Old 02-11-2016, 09:52 AM
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It seems clear at this point that a system like Ferguson's - in which the city relies on abusing its citizenry to cover expenses - is unfeasible. Either the city must cut back its spending - which seems unlikely - or economies of scale should be achieved somehow. Whether that's an actual merger with nearby cities or just a merging of services somehow is an unknown.
Actually, most of Ferguson's revenue came from fines levied against people who were not Ferguson residents - basically from speed traps targeting commuters. Who were disproportionally minorities, of course.

It does seem most likely that Ferguson will go Unincorporated, and end up under control of the St. Louis County government.
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Old 02-11-2016, 09:58 AM
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It does seem most likely that Ferguson will go Unincorporated, and end up under control of the St. Louis County government.
That's actually another interesting legal question (to me, at least )

As above, one of the key sticking points here is whether the consent decree is to remain in effect in case another entity takes over. So apparently, if Ferguson agrees that it does, then it does. But suppose Ferguson unincorporates itself and dissolves its police force etc. before the legal fighting is over. Could the county then say "we have no connection to any abuses that the Ferguson police and political system might have perpetuated", and thus sidestep the whole issue, or can the DOJ force the county to "pay" for the abuses of Ferguson? (Ostensibly, the notion for all these reforms is that the Town can't be trusted based on their record of prior abuse. But if the DOJ hasn't made that same case against the county, then logically it shouldn't apply to them.)
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Old 02-11-2016, 10:06 AM
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Actually, most of Ferguson's revenue came from fines levied against people who were not Ferguson residents - basically from speed traps targeting commuters. Who were disproportionally minorities, of course.

It does seem most likely that Ferguson will go Unincorporated, and end up under control of the St. Louis County government.
Fines only made up 10% of the city's revenue stream. Sales and property tax made up 45% back in 2010 with Sales revenue remaining stable to 2014 but Property tax revenue doubling.
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Old 02-11-2016, 10:55 AM
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Something has to give. Like, say, that mishmash of St. Louis metro area municipalities might need to be consolidated. The constitutional rights of the citizens takes precedence over the desire of local notables to have power.
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Old 02-11-2016, 11:08 AM
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Something has to give. Like, say, that mishmash of St. Louis metro area municipalities might need to be consolidated. The constitutional rights of the citizens takes precedence over the desire of local notables to have power.
The citizens also have the right to self-determination in their local government. If the citizens of Ferguson do not want to consolidate with other towns, or be subsumed into a larger County government, they shouldn't be forced to do so by the federal government.
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Old 02-11-2016, 11:13 AM
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If the existence of those local governments is predicated on exploiting the citizenry to enrich a subset of the population, then the interests of those running those governments are no longer to be respected.
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Old 02-11-2016, 11:18 AM
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If the existence of those local governments is predicated on exploiting the citizenry to enrich a subset of the population, then the interests of those running those governments are no longer to be respected.
For sake of argument, let's say that Ferguson is ticketing people willy nilly for all sorts of petty stuff. The fines still go into the city coffers, so it's still the citizens' money.

Unless you have a cite that "a subset of the population is being enriched"?
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Old 02-11-2016, 11:31 AM
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ISTM that there are two separate issues which are being conflated.

The first is whether Ferguson engaged in various discriminatory practices. The DOJ is asserting that they did, and while I'm rather skeptical of the DOJ and their investigation, let's assume for purposes of this discussion that they are correct.

The second is whether the only way to correct these abuses is to enact the specific remedies that the DOJ is demanding. This is where I think you need to be realistic about budgetary realities. I have a feeling - and it's not much more than that, as I'm not all that familiar with the relevant laws and case histories - that a judge would be more inclined to take these into account than the (highly political) DOJ would. (Specifically, I think the DOJ is more interested in making a strong statement on a national level about a national issue than they are in improving the lives of actual people in Ferguson.)
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Old 02-11-2016, 11:38 AM
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Well, it's important to bear in mind that Ferguson would not be agreeing to anything in the consent decree that the DOJ can't get in a regular court order.
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Old 02-11-2016, 11:41 AM
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Can you elaborate?

It was my understanding is that the way these consent decrees work is "agree to this and we don't battle it out in court, otherwise we do", same as any other out-of-court settlement. In which case it would be unclear as to what would be imposed by a court until an actual ruling. It sounds like you're suggesting that it works differently here.
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Old 02-11-2016, 12:24 PM
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For sake of argument, let's say that Ferguson is ticketing people willy nilly for all sorts of petty stuff. The fines still go into the city coffers, so it's still the citizens' money.

Unless you have a cite that "a subset of the population is being enriched"?
The citizens' money, which pays the salaries of the city government officials and the police. The same police that the DOJ found were engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination and racial profiling. The same city government that the DOJ has accused of misusing the police to generate municipal revenue. There were protests and riots, if you recall.
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Old 02-11-2016, 12:44 PM
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Why exactly would it cost $10 million? Just stopping various abusive practices shouldn't cost anything at all.

But a reasonable solution to me would be that Ferguson contracts with Saint Louis County to provide police protection. Why wouldn't this work?

Last edited by PastTense; 02-11-2016 at 12:45 PM.
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Old 02-11-2016, 01:15 PM
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It sounds like Ferguson can levy property taxes (which is true of municipalities in almost all of the States), and sales taxes (true in a smaller subset of the states.) I'm not sure if they can levy income taxes, in a lot of states they are not allowed to do that. The simple answer is the money to cover lost fine revenue would have to come from property taxes.

I don't think most cities get to funding large percentages (and 10% is somewhat large) of their budget with fines because they want to, I think it tends to happen as a city goes to shit. Fixing a busted city with higher property taxes is a poor formula--because people can easily avoid those taxes by simply leaving. That's how Detroit got stuck in a "death spiral" they needed more revenue to fix their fiscal and management problems, the only way to get more revenue would've been to raise taxes, but Detroit was losing population due to poor economics and other causes, so raising property taxes would've just pushed more residents out, thus ultimately lowering revenue again. There isn't an easy way out once it gets to that point. I'm not as familiar with Ferguson's financial situation as Detroit's, but it sounds like it's pretty grave if deincorporation is being considered.

The collapse of a town can be difficult because towns often have outstanding bonds, issued when the town was in a time of better economic conditions, but that bond payment is still due even when you've lost tax base and revenue.

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Old 02-11-2016, 01:25 PM
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Why exactly would it cost $10 million? Just stopping various abusive practices shouldn't cost anything at all.
OK, so following your hypothetical, Ferguson's mayor or chief of police calls you up and says "Uh, everything's under control. Situation normal. Uh, we had a slight [law enforcement] malfunction, but uh... everything's perfectly all right now. We're fine. We're all fine here now, thank you. How are you?"

Its seems to me that the only thing you can do for free is agree with him. Anything else is going to cost money.
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Old 02-11-2016, 01:37 PM
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Why exactly would it cost $10 million? Just stopping various abusive practices shouldn't cost anything at all.

But a reasonable solution to me would be that Ferguson contracts with Saint Louis County to provide police protection. Why wouldn't this work?
The butthurt outcry over the poor brave police being sacked.
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Old 02-11-2016, 01:43 PM
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Why exactly would it cost $10 million? Just stopping various abusive practices shouldn't cost anything at all.
Part of the agreement was large raises for police, to attract more qualified personnel, separating out the municipal court from the police department, and paying a monitor. Ferguson is running $2.5 million in deficit since the riots.
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But a reasonable solution to me would be that Ferguson contracts with Saint Louis County to provide police protection. Why wouldn't this work?
AFAICT the Feds would sue Ferguson if they don't consent to the agreement. Closing the police department and farming out safety services to the county was one of the suggested alternatives to the agreement.

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Shodan

ETA - http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2...ons/80185820/#

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Old 02-11-2016, 01:51 PM
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It was my understanding is that the way these consent decrees work is "agree to this and we don't battle it out in court, otherwise we do", same as any other out-of-court settlement. In which case it would be unclear as to what would be imposed by a court until an actual ruling. It sounds like you're suggesting that it works differently here.
It's unclear what would be imposed by the court. It's not unclear what could be imposed by a court (at least it won't be to the DOJ civil rights division and Missouri government attorneys). So the city would not agree to, say, provide every citizen with a candy machine, since that's not a remedy the court could impose in the absence of an agreement.
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Old 02-11-2016, 01:56 PM
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... I'm not as familiar with Ferguson's financial situation as Detroit's, but it sounds like it's pretty grave if deincorporation is being considered.
To be clear, I'm pretty sure it's not being considered by Ferguson, nor apparently by the DOJ. But, locally, speculation is that's where it'll end up - Ferguson will try to fight the DOJ, and not having the funds to do so will lead to disincorporation, or perhaps as a consideration in the inevitable court case.
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Old 02-11-2016, 01:58 PM
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It's unclear what would be imposed by the court. It's not unclear what could be imposed by a court (at least it won't be to the DOJ civil rights division and Missouri government attorneys). So the city would not agree to, say, provide every citizen with a candy machine, since that's not a remedy the court could impose in the absence of an agreement.
FWIW, the city might agree to provide every citizen with a candy machine even if the DOJ couldn't get it in court just to avoid having to fight about it in court. But that's not really germane to the point here. Nor, AFAICT, was your post. In light of your explanation here, I don't understand what point you were making in your prior post.

What I suggested was that Ferguson might get a better deal in court than they would get from the DOJ because the court might be more inclined to look at what's in the best interests of the citizens of Ferguson - which would include the costs - than the DOJ which has a more narrow focus on the national headlines about the issue of police tactics. In what way did you intend to respond to that?
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Old 02-11-2016, 02:00 PM
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I don't think most cities get to funding large percentages (and 10% is somewhat large) of their budget with fines because they want to, I think it tends to happen as a city goes to shit.
2010 Actuals / 2012 Budgeted
Sales Tax - $5.9M / $5.9
Property Tax - $1.2M / $1.9M
Fines - $1.5M / $2.0

2012 Actuals /2014 Budgeted
Sales Tax - $5.9M / $6.0
Property Tax - $1.9 / $2.2M
Fines - $2.2M / $2.7

2014 Actuals / 2015 Forecast / 2016 Budgeted
Sales Tax - $6.0M / $6.3 / $6.3
Property Tax - $2.4M / $2.3M / $2.3 M
Fines - $2.0M / $1.0M / $1.0 M

The city fully expected to keep bleeding Property Tax and Fines for all they were worth. Now to be fair, in 2013 they were projecting $3.2M in fines to be collected in 2015.

Overall Revenue grew 20% (2010-2014) while General Expenditures grew by 18%. The problem has been the massive growth in Capital Improvement Sales Tax Fund which has grown 439% since over the same period. If they dropped that expense back down to the $1-2M they had in 2010/11 they'd free up 4-6 million dollars. Now maybe the fund is a temporary expense that would naturally fade away and allow them to rebuild a rainy day fund but if it isn't then that would be where the attention should go.

https://www.fergusoncity.com/172/City-Budget

Last edited by Grey; 02-11-2016 at 02:01 PM.
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Old 02-11-2016, 02:14 PM
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Yeah, it looks like the capital construction spending is high now and supposed to go down a bit over the next two years. Obviously that fund is being used to build something, not sure what though.
  #42  
Old 02-11-2016, 03:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Martin Hyde View Post
It sounds like Ferguson can levy property taxes (which is true of municipalities in almost all of the States), and sales taxes (true in a smaller subset of the states.) I'm not sure if they can levy income taxes, in a lot of states they are not allowed to do that. The simple answer is the money to cover lost fine revenue would have to come from property taxes.
Allowing cities to levy income taxes is a really bad idea. Look at Detroit. Way back when, the state decided to let Detroit levy an income tax. Guess how that worked out? Nobody, but nobody, wants to pay an extra level of income tax if they can avoid it. And it turns out it's not hard to move jobs to other nearby cities. Ford's headquarters is in Dearborn, not Detroit. Chrysler's headquarters is in Auburn Hills, not Detroit. General Motors' headquarters is in Detoit, but the Tech Center (with all GM's engineering & development -- basically most of the white-collar work) is in Warren, not Detroit. On scales large & small, jobs fled the city to the surrounding suburbs that can't levy their own income tax.
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Old 02-11-2016, 03:42 PM
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I agree with that, although some States all the local municipalities will levy a tax. In Ohio most regions, all the little towns levy income taxes and usually within +/- 0.5% of each other in terms of rate. I'm not sure if they collude to get that done or it's just happened over time.
  #44  
Old 02-11-2016, 05:24 PM
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Originally Posted by MOIDALIZE View Post
The citizens' money, which pays the salaries of the city government officials and the police. The same police that the DOJ found were engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination and racial profiling. The same city government that the DOJ has accused of misusing the police to generate municipal revenue.
I still don't see any evidence that the government officials are being personally enriched by these fines. It's not like the Mayor and Police Chief and spending the money on hookers and blow in Vegas.

The Mayor and City Council are elected, and I believe the Police Chief, along with other city officials, are appointed, probably by the same Mayor and City Council. The answer, then, is at the ballot box, not the DOJ.
  #45  
Old 08-07-2019, 02:48 PM
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Update (just came across an article about "Ferguson, five years later"):

In terms of overall municipal spending, the budget took a huge hit when fines were cut back, but since made it up with an increased sales tax (including a countywide "Proposition P"), and revenue is back to where it was before the fines were cut back. Cite

While the overall revenue is roughly the same as it was before the fines were cut back (though higher than it was at the time the consent decree was promulgated, via the sales taxes), the parts of the consent decree to which the city objected to on cost grounds - mainly increased police salaries - have not been implemented. Cite

So it sounds like the question in the OP is still unresolved, though that itself may say something.
  #46  
Old 08-09-2019, 04:04 AM
fedman is offline
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Originally Posted by Pearl Clutching Provocateur View Post
Cut the police force by two thirds. There's very little crime in Ferguson. It was only white cops harassing Black people anyway.
since you live in SoCal, how do you know what crime rate is?
  #47  
Old 08-09-2019, 04:06 AM
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Maybe they could start taxing the top few percent of earners locally in Ferguson since previously they've been fleecing the poorest for years or even generations. If they already have a local tax, which I doubt, then they should raise it starting with the highest earners.
where is your cite for your assertion?
  #48  
Old 08-09-2019, 04:10 AM
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Originally Posted by MOIDALIZE View Post
Something has to give. Like, say, that mishmash of St. Louis metro area municipalities might need to be consolidated. The constitutional rights of the citizens takes precedence over the desire of local notables to have power.
like st louis is unique in structure? Cleveland has not succeeded in consolidation
  #49  
Old 08-09-2019, 10:26 AM
enalzi is online now
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You're replying to people who haven't posted here in years.
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