On the national scene, Democrats, Republicans and Tea Baggers all all hate Washington because - respectively - Congressional leadership, the president and space-aliens-from-god-knows-where are out to run our country into the ground. In case you haven't seen it yet, a #F---YouWashington hashtag has been lighting up Twitter for the past few weeks, prompted mostly by this debt ceiling fiasco, which seems mostly to be an excuse for the ultra-tan John Boehner to get some extra broadcast time for his apparently limitless collection of unabashedly green neckwear.
Here in California, the state is something like $600 trillion in debt (I might be exaggerating a bit), the public education system is one of the worst in the nation and ... I imagine there are lots of other nasty problems, too, but the weather is so nice, who can complain?
The point is: We're all used to bitching and moaning about getting taxed to hell and screwed over by the jerks in federal and state government. That's old news. Somehow it seems worse when you learn that you've been getting royally hosed by your local government. People who are your neighbors. But another wonderful - and very creative - example of that came to light today in Los Angeles.
The city is deciding whether to discontinue its controversial red-light traffic camera program - where motorists get their photos taken by automatic cameras when they run red lights, and then have to pay a whopping fine, on the order of $480. The main issue being that although they generate a lot of tickets, they're not actually an effective traffic safety mechanism, which should have been the point.
Now, it turns out, those "fines" for running red lights weren't actually fines so much as they were, um, suggested donations. Today, in an L.A. Times blog post, the esteemed* city councilman Bill Rosendahl explains:
"The consequence is somebody calling you from one of these collection agencies and saying 'pay up.' And that's it. There's no real penalty in terms of your driver's license or any other consequences if you don't pay."
Yep. Turns out that the tickets were actually part of a "voluntary payment program." As in optional. As in, keep that horrible black-and-white traffic-camera photo, keep your money and treat yourself to a weekend getaway instead.
|Caught on camera.|
Wonder what other Los Angeles fines and fees I've been paying that are actually voluntary payment programs. Only one way to find out....
* "Esteemed" in the same sense that the tickets seemed "voluntary."