morris mn - We're a community on the grand, seemingly endless prairie of the Upper Midwest. Empty, you might say? It's the epitome of richness, both in the overall environment and the hardy souls who populate. Morris is home to the University of Minnesota-Morris, a small public liberal arts college of distinction.
History-making music group for UMM - morris mn
The UMM men's chorus opened the Minnesota Day program at the 1962 Seattle World's Fair (Century 21 Exposition).
Monday, August 27, 2012
Seat belt enforcement grates on a great many
"Buckling up" is no longer a decision left to citizens of Morris.
There was a time when law enforcement people acted like general caretakers of a community. They might scold or give advice on occasions. They would put you in the right direction with a stern directive about something. You'd listen too.
Today it's more likely they'll just ask to see your driver's license, get on their car radio and process a citation. The creative mind behind "Beetle Bailey" noticed this once. It was no longer sufficient for Sarge to berate someone by hollering using expletives. That's old school. Today there's punishment with a tangible outcome - a fine or demotion or whatever.
What do you prefer? Such was the blue nature of Sarge's language, it would be represented by those "squiggles" that you get hitting the top row of keys (upper case).
I think we'd all prefer a combination. There are times when a stern warning ought to do the job fine. And then there are infractions where the more formal punishment is called for.
Many good citizens have been getting humiliated by getting seat belt tickets here of late. A friend from my church told me the other day the "sting" has not abated. Be very careful when driving your car around Morris. Even if you slip into the driver's seat after dropping someone off, and your intent is to just find a parking spot a block away, wrap yourself in, no matter how ridiculous it seems. All it takes is being spotted by that young guy in a uniform for a split second. You'll see the flashing lights and go through the whole routine.
Police officers of a generation ago would be surprised. We employed more common sense in an earlier time. We all knew the role of police - to provide essential protection and order. Police knew who the real troublemakers were in a community and the people who might just be absent-minded or stupid.
I think most intelligent people in Morris are flabbergasted at this crackdown with seat belts. So one wonders: Where is the mandate coming from, if it seems to fly in the face of public will?
There appears to be a combination of factors at work.
There was a national tug-of-war between automakers and the Federal bureaucracy that set the stage for much of this. Automakers were concerned about being required to install air bags. The concern was that the price of cars might be pushed too high. The bureaucrats offered a deal: If seat belt legislation could be enacted to a certain degree across the states, the requirement would be suspended. Let's name names. Elizabeth Dole was the bureaucrat pulling the strings. That's a big Republican name. I thought Republicans fought "regulations."
The automakers established a lobbying arm to push seat belts. The public wasn't accepting of seat belt use as absolutely mandatory. The forces on the other side, scratching heads, came up with a tactic: Promote the seat belt offense as "secondary" so people wouldn't have to worry about being pulled over just for seat belt. Inroads were made. Beware of scheming bureaucrats and politicians. The camel's nose had gotten in the proverbial tent.
Pretty soon there were "awareness campaigns" which my friends around Morris would call "stings." Technically they aren't stings because stings induce people into breaking the law. Seat belt enforcement campaigns are just overzealous law enforcement. Of course, if we were really concerned with protecting public safety, we'd outlaw motorcycles completely. Also, all these contraptions sort of like golf carts, which in my youth we called "swamp buggies." Those three-wheel motorcycles are getting more common.
Getting rear-ended in a glorified golf cart has to be bad news. So why is it such a cardinal sin to be caught not wearing a seat belt in a nice sturdy automobile? Because the lawmakers in their detached world, away from regular day-to-day life and bombarded with lobbyists' missives, have decreed it so. They realize at the same time that the law and the aggressive enforcement mandate don't pass the smell test. They know that because they used to be normal people.
If you want to see a remedy for this, you might want to vote for more Democrats than Republicans. You see, Republicans recoil from "raising taxes" so much, like it's an awful disease, they fall back on "fees and fines" to get revenue in. It's an onerous process. Along with fees and fines, there is a greater dependence on gambling, which in my youth was highly taboo, not to be weighed seriously for public purposes. Back then if we as the public wanted something, we were more receptive to the idea of simply paying for it via the orderly and equitable system of taxation.
Today rich people absolutely scream they cannot pay more taxes. At the Federal level, officeholders do things without paying for them at all, sort of.
We rely on electronic pulltabs to pay for a new Vikings stadium in Minnesota, which, if you look at the obvious adequacy of the Metrodome, is nothing but foolish. It's like Sodom and Gomorrah. We're deluded. There are so many other infrastructure projects we could undertake.
The seat belt ticket I received was on May 31. It was a distraction for about a third of the summer. The Barney Fife showed me a website address I could visit to ascertain my fine and perhaps pay it online. The fine amount wasn't made known to me immediately - very strange. I can't pay online because I don't have a credit card. The Fife showed me an 800 phone number I could call to accomplish the same purpose. This is the route I would use, and what an adventure this would become.
I called the number three or four times over a period of three weeks. Initially I was told through a mechanical system (no live human voice) that no information was available on my ticket. The menu eventually allowed me to speak to a person. These people - women - were friendly enough. They weren't able to help me with my ticket, which was now hovering over my whole summer.
Finally one of these receptionists, after I had taken up much of their time, suggested I call the local court administrator's office. I did. The person on the other end said she'd look into it and get back to me. A few minutes later the phone rang. I was informed there was some sort of paperwork slip-up, presumably at the local police office, and that my fine would be $110. I had two passengers in my car so I suppose it could have been worse.
I asked if I could pay the damn fine in person. The 30-day deadline for paying the fine was days away. I was told yes, I could pay in person, but it would have to be "cash" - yes, bills. Desperate to get the process over with, I went ahead and did it this way. But I found it strange.
The standard procedure is to mail payment to a collection office in Willmar. Presumably checks would be fine for that. But in person, here, it would have to be some dead presidents.
The Willmar office signals to me that we're seeing more consolidation and centralizing of these government processes. I suppose that's good but what troubles me is we had such an opulent new courthouse built here. Is it actually becoming obsolete? I for one felt our existing courthouse was just fine. Heck, I actually think our 19th Century courthouse might be good enough today.
Everything is being streamlined and made more efficient. The importance of sprawling infrastructure is diminishing. That very old courthouse was in fact very charming. It would be a striking landmark today. But our county commissioners wanted all the bells and whistles, even a 40-bed jail until the community finally said "wait a minute" and had to practically organize in mobs to get that canceled.
Can we get some mobs to try to cut out this overzealous seat belt enforcement? All these $110 fines are taking money out of the pockets of people who'd normally be spending it locally. It's a Chamber of Commerce issue. But the government needs funds and Republicans won't "raise taxes."
So we're paying the piper and being humiliated in the process. Let's try to resolve this unreasonable and unjust state of affairs. Let's make Morris a more pleasant place in which to live.
Chief Beauregard, maybe you have your shorts on a little too tight.