March 10, 2015

Well, well, well. Who would have thought that the mayor of Ferguson had connections that would bring him to a panel at the ALEC affiliated and Kochtopus-funded Show-Me Institute, just months before Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown?

Mayor James Knowles, who once led the St. Louis Young Republicans, was there to tout the benefits and profit potential connected with privatizing law enforcement services.

Mark Ames at Pando Daily:

In early 2014, just a few months before the city of Ferguson exploded in street protests after the shooting of Michael Brown, Mayor Knowles, gave an interview to Missouri’s leading libertarian think-tank, the Show-Me Institute. In that interview... Mayor Knowles explained the many wonderful benefits of privatization. When asked if there was anything he would not consider privatizing in Ferguson, Mayor Knowles answered:

“Really there isn’t much that we haven’t explored that we didn’t see was a good idea.”

Ames points out that much of Ferguson's current woes come from the already-privatized red-light and speeding cameras, the very same cameras that ticketed court officials and cops (who got their tickets fixed) alongside Ferguson residents.

Indeed, as the DOJ report and others have discovered, much of Ferguson’s “offender-funded” criminal justice system and municipal budget begins with exorbitant moving and parking violations that then spiral into a ruinous cycle of debts, fines, and fees.

Ferguson’s privatized red-light and speeding cameras, which were challenged and criticized by Ferguson residents, were installed under dubious legal and constitutional means, as even Mayor Knowles acknowledges in his interview. For one thing, they ticket the owner of the car, rather than the driver of the car. There is also evidence all over the country of how the private companies that operate traffic violation cameras bribe officials, subvert democracy by suing to stop local anti-camera voter initiatives, tweak stop lights in order to increase ticketing (and private profits), and target low-income communities.

The company that contracts out Ferguson’s red light cameras, American Traffic Solutions, settled a class action lawsuit in Missouri forcing it to refund 20 percent of all 900,000 tickets the company issued in the state since 2005. Missouri’s state Supreme Court is expected to rule this year on the constitutionality of the privatized red-light and speeding cameras.

And yet, in his interview with the Show-Me Institute, Mayor Knowles held up privatized red light and speeding cameras as one of the best examples of privatized law enforcement services.

All of the public garment-rending is just a show. Knowles is not just a part of the problem, he and City Manager Shaw are responsible for creating it.

We've seen the municipal judge resign from his reign of terror over Ferguson residents.

Now it's time for the mayor and city manager to follow suit.

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