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Municipal Code Violation fines to balance Muni. Budget


David H. Lipman

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Class Action Lawsuit Challenges Policing for Profit in St. Louis Co. Municipal Court System
 
 


 
RE:  Municipal Gov't of Pagedale Missouri
 
The Institute for Justice ( IJ ) has filed a Class Action Lawsuit against Pagedale Missouri because they apparently have decided to use Code Enforcement revenue as an income to balance the municipal government's budget.
 

What would it be like if your homeowners’ or condo association had a police force? If, instead of just annoying you by nitpicking how your property’s paint looks or whether your barbequing with friends bothers the neighborhood busybodies, the association could ticket, fine, and even arrest you? And what would it be like if the association had an incentive to ticket you as much and as often as possible because it needed as much money as it could get its hands on?

This scenario is, unfortunately, a reality for the residents of Pagedale, Missouri.

Pagedale lies just outside of St. Louis. To supplement the tax revenue it receives from its impoverished residents, Pagedale relies heavily on money from tickets and fines. Missouri limits how much revenue a municipality may derive from traffic tickets, however, so Pagedale aggressively tickets its residents for harmless conditions and activities around their homes.
According to the city code, Pagedale residents can be ticketed and fined for:

  • Having mismatched curtains;
  • Walking on the left-hand side of a crosswalk;
  • Wearing pants below one’s waist;
  • Having holes in window screens, and;
  • Having a barbeque in front of a house.
The recipients of these tickets are then thrown into Pagedale’s municipal court system, which, in 2013, heard over 5,000 cases, or an average of over 200 cases per twice-monthly session.

 



 

 

Plaintiff Vincent Blount has accumulated $2,800 in fines, a significant portion of which comes from tickets regarding the home in which he lives. Paying off his long-term payment plan prevented him from making the improvements the city sought, leading to more fines and ultimately a threat from the city to demolish his home (even though it is not dangerous in any way). Vincent has also spent time in Pagedale jail as a result of his fines and fees and his failure to appear at one of Pagedale’s court sessions. Vincent doesn’t even own the home that is the subject of some of his tickets and fines; it belongs to his long-time partner, Valarie Whitner, who is also a plaintiff in this case.

 

Valarie has also been the subject of the city’s ticketing practices. She has received a set of warnings from the city, threatening her with fines and fees for alleged violations such as chipped paint on her home or lacking a screen door on the rear entrance to her home. It is unclear what part of the Pagedale Code even regulates chipped paint. Valarie has received generic tickets for “house not up to code” without further explanation. When Vincent lost his job, he and Valarie fell into arrears and were forced to help pay off the fines by taking out a pay-day loan with a 99% APR. Valarie was even arrested in front of her home and taken to Pagedale city hall because of an unspecified ticket.

 

Mildred Bryant is 84 years old and living out her golden years in the home she’s owned for 46 years. Mildred is an active woman, exercising three times a week at the local YWCA. Yet despite her active lifestyle, keeping up with Pagedale’s demands is proving to be an impossible task. Mildred received a notice from the city threatening legal action if she did not comply. The notice accused Mildred of at least 12 different code violations. Many of the modifications demanded by the notice are beyond Mildred’s physical and financial abilities. The notice demanded that she touch up or repaint her entire two-story home, including the foundation. Other demands are simply ridiculous, such as demanding that Mildred’s home have matching curtains, slats, or other such window treatment. Her son, whom she raised in Pagedale, occasionally helps her out with complying with the city’s demands. But the grace periods given by the city have elapsed and she faces a real threat of tickets, fines, and imprisonment.

 

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It's really weird what they all ticket people for and all that rules and lists, 

 

I could only agree with the curtains that is something really can anoying me when I

see people having bad curtains, But that's at tic of me.

My neighbours have blankets and sheets for the windows and really I'm glad my apartment is first so my visitors don't need to pass their windows 

I asked the man carefully if he wishes for curtains I could help finding some, but he said he didn't like curtains he likes blankets and sheets  :blink:

Okay, not my cup of tea but somehow it bothers me I feel sorry for his wife

 

But in the case of the youtube here, I would move out in a city like that, although here in the Hague we have some restricted rules for properties

You have to ask for permission when you want to paint and not every color is allowed, but that's common knowledge and when you buy a house

you will be informed wich rules you have to go by when you intend to change something on the outside of the house, because it has to fit in the look of

a street. And with the old monumental buildings it's even worse.

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