Tag Archives: National Guard

DC Court of Appeals to Neighborhood: Drop Dead

In July 2009, a three-member panel of the federal court of appeals for the District of Columbia effectively ruled that well-off suburbanites are entitled to protect themselves from crime and other serious threats but residents of poor neighborhoods are not.

Gated communities have spread across the United States since the 1970s. By some estimates, more than 8 million residents lived in 20,000 gated communities in the late 1990s, and the numbers have increased rapidly since. Gated communities impose tight controls on neighborhood access, requiring non-residents seeking entry to show that they have a reasonable purpose.

As the federal appeals court acknowledged, a wave of “violence… has plagued the Trinidad neighborhood in Northeast Washington, DC for many years.” Conditions had reached the point in early June 2008 that there had been 25 recent assaults involving firearms, resulting in 5 deaths. On May 31, 2008, the neighborhood experienced a triple homicide. If this had been the suburbs, the National Guard might have been called out.

Taking a page from the suburbs, the District of Columbia police department established (temporary) checkpoints on entry into the Trinidad neighborhood. While the program was in effect for several weeks, out of 951 vehicles seeking to enter, 48 were denied entry. One of the drivers sued, alleging her rights had been violated. A lower district court ruled for the city but the federal appeals court in Caneisha Mills v. District of Columbia overturned this decision. The appeals court decision was written by David Sentelle, a Reagan appointee in 1985. Presumably, he saw the case as an individual civil rights matter, even as he effectively dismissed the collective rights of the neighborhood residents to their own personal safety. Continue reading

Birmingham, Alabama: National Guard Needed After Budget Cuts?

National Guard in New OrleansThe sheriff of Birmingham, Alabama warns he may need to call the National Guard to maintain order after this week’s Circuit Court ruling that Jefferson County leaders can proceed with plans to slash $4.1 million from the sheriff’s budget.

Sheriff Hale, who unsuccessfully sued the County Commission to stop the cuts, warns the decision mean the loss of 188 deputies and 300 civilian employees — more than a dent in local law enforcement.

How did Jefferson County end up close to earning the title of “biggest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history?”

To finance a $3.2 billion sewer cleanup, six years ago, after consluting with J.P. Morgan,  the county issued floating interest rate debt instead of the typical fixed interest rate debt. It was meant to save taxpayers money. But the collapse of the subprime mortgage market drove up variable rates and has left Jefferson County hemorrhaging red ink, with unexpected debt payments of $7 million a month.

Sadly, none of this was really necessary.

sewer001.JPGAs William Selway and Martin Braun writing at Bloomberg.com note, rather than use competitive bidding (or traditional fixed interest rate bonds) to build the sewers, Jeffco took J.P. Morgan’s advice, turning to pricey (banks collected $120 million in fees on the deal) and costly (the county is $277 million debt as a result) financial wizardry.

Now residents will being paying for their sewer system many times over, and in many ways. The sewer bonds are junk. Taxes will be hiked, sewer fees are rising, and now the city needs the National Guard?

There are other ways to build,  maintain, and pay for sewers. For more, see this 2000 report from the Reason Foundation.