Sunday, April 06, 2008

Faulty logic???

It should come as no surprise that government and elected representatives use faulty logic when it comes to justify intrusive, onerous laws. But when the people mimic the same comments, I begin to worry.

Many have said that red-light and speed cameras at intersections are not a problem. If you're not breaking the law, you shouldn't have anything to worry about. And if you are running a red light or speeding, you ARE breaking the law and the government should use any means to penalize you when you do.

While both these positions may be true, it masks the underlying question of whether or not the government should use cameras - instead of police officers - to enforce criminal violation via a civil penalty strictly as a means of revenue enhancement. (Background on the Toledo red-light/speed cameras is available here in several pod casts starting January 8th.)

Further, the concept of 'slippery slope' becomes a point of discussion as communities begin to explore the use of cameras in parks. A simple Google search for 'cameras in parks' will generate enough stories to fill your day with reading. And again, the logic is that if you're not doing anything wrong, you shouldn't mind that cameras are watching you.

We can certainly debate the laws, 'Big Brother' and the numerous indications this has for privacy and even more intrusive coverage of the behavior and actions of citizens. But the logic that we should allow such laws if we aren't planning to break them completely escapes me.

Now, that same logic is being applied to a new license requirement in Toledo - and not to the idea of the camera. I've written several times about the new convenience store licensing law and, most recently, about the lawsuit to overturn it. Today's Blade has an article about the lawsuit (four days after the fact) in which Council President Mark Sobczak uses this faulty logic as an excuse for the law.

"Council President Mark Sobczak yesterday declined to comment specifically on the complaint. He said the ordinance was modeled heavily after a similar law in Minneapolis.

"They had problems with carryout owners not running very good businesses. They were selling stuff that led to crimes, and they weren't responsible," Mr. Sobczak said.

"I think most of the reputable operators have no problems with the [new] restrictions since the vast majority were already doing all that we're asking."

See? If you're not doing anything wrong - or if you've already got cameras in store - you shouldn't object to the creation of a new and costly regulation. Never mind that they can close you down if you don't comply with these new rules, if you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about. Yeah...right!

I'm not a convenience store owner and the ones in my neighborhood are good for our community. But it's not MY neighborhood stores they're targeting...even though they are still subject to the laws, fees and fines.

And I do object to these efforts to create new ways of generating revenue for the government, new rules and regulations which drive up the cost of business and subsequently the cost of the products they produce or sell, and a more intrusive government. And so should you. Numerous examples exist where a supposedly simply, common sense rule has become a method for government control of the behavior of citizens (no smoking in planes led to no smoking within the jurisdiction of a city, red light cameras led to speed cameras and now cameras in parks and other places in cities).

If Toledo can impose a license requirement for convenience stores in order to control the behavior of people shopping there, what area or industry is next? Malls? Grocery stores? Because you can rest assured that if they get away with this one, they will look to duplicate it somewhere else, using a lack of objection - and faulty logic - to assume that since no one objected, the citizens must approve.


Timothy W Higgins said...


As you are rightly pointing out here there is a difference between the installation of cameras that business owner does for voluntarily and one that it does under the duress of the government. Likewise, there is a difference installation of security cameras for the owner's benefit; and installation for the benefit of law enforcement.

It seems to me that if all of the crime is occurring around these stores, that they would want to keep them open, making it a simple matter for the police to stake these locations out and catch criminals in a butterfly net.

Toledo city government continues to become more intrusive in the business world in its regulatory capacity, as well as its willingness to be a competitor. Perhaps their next answer will be to buy a few of the convenience stores and run them themselves. (I didn't say that out loud, did I?)

Maggie said...

Now you've done it, Tim...

You know that they read this blog, don't you?


Ben said...

I read a story that somewhere in Texas a city took out the cameras because people werent speeding or running red lights around them and they werent taking in enought money to pay for the cameras.

Maggie said...

Ben - if we're thinking of the same city, it was the one that set up a committee to examine the impact of the cameras after a year of operation ... but because of the INCREASE in accidents (not caused by running the red light), they recommended removing the cameras after only 6 months.

Imagine that...

Publius said...

I'm still up in the air on the red-light camera issue, but on the license requirement for carry-outs as a supposed means of curtailing crime, I'm absolutely opposed.

To me, there seems to be no rational relationship between licensing and the reduction in crime. I like Tim's understanding. If there are a few places that are notorious offenders, then it should be all the easier for law enforcement to ramp up patrols in those areas.


toledo1 said...

I can see what you are saying about stopping quickly to avoid getting a ticket and how that can possibly cause more accidents. However, I am not sure that their ONLY purpose is to generate income. It may be the only reason that the city uses them, but I know that since my husband got a $95 ticket for speeding from the cameras, he surely has slowed down. Yes, they generate revenue, but the speeding cameras don't run as much risk of causing an accident due to unsafe stopping and it got him to rethink the lead foot. Safety probably isn't the true intention of the city, but there is a slight amount of credibility to their uses.

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