Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Why hire a special prosecutor?

On the request of Justice Jonathan Katz, the Town Council is tonight interviewing candidates for a new special prosecutor position. I sent this email to the Council today.

I am opposed to the town hiring a special prosecutor.

The role of any government is to provide those services that cannot or will not be fairly made available through other means, including security, planning, and education. Governments tax their constituents in order to have the necessary resources to perform these functions.

When I asked the Supervisor about the special prosecutor, she told me that many other area municipalities have them, and that it's been generating a lot of revenue for them. This is the wrong answer.

If a government wishes to tax its citizens, it must do so in a transparent and equitable fashion that allows for full participation by the citizenry. The Supervisor's response makes it clear that she wishes to sidestep traditional revenue channels in an election year. It was not her stated intention to reduce crime or increase the responsiveness of the justice system; she wishes to raise money for the Town.

I submit that the only moral way to raise money is through the transparent budgeting process. This would include, for example, posting the full proposed budget on the town web site, which should be easy enough to do given that the site was designed specifically to make it possible to update content quickly.

If the Town wishes to become more just, may I suggest that in addition to hiring a special prosecutor, that it hire a special public defender? The one assigned by the County is overworked, unfamiliar with cases, and simply unable to adequately represent his clients due to the workload placed upon him. Such a new position would show that the Town Council is interested in justice, not secret revenue-generating schemes.

As you interview candidates for the special prosecutor position today, consider why you were elected. If you believe that New Paltz desires a straightforward government that does not seek to modify behavior or balance budgets through financial tricks, then please think twice about hiring a special prosecutor.
I tire of governments finding sneaky ways to balance budgets, be it like this or with parking meters, fees, or anything else that really amounts to modifying behavior via money. Taxes in New Paltz are high, but my problem is more that the true tax rate is well obfuscated by tactics such as these.


kt tobin flusser said...

I'm watching the Police Commission meeting on 23 right now, so glad this is filmed. It appears the Chief is making the argument that the Special Procecutor will reduce overtime costs for the police. Note: the SP will only cover guilty pleas, for not guilty pleas, the original ticketing cop will need to show.

Anonymous said...

The Special Prosecutor is for State Police (who are not allowed to plea, per the SP commander,and to watch there overtime) tickets only at this time I think, local PD will still take care of there own. I believe that the above comment is incorrect. The SP is for NOT guilty, guilty pleas do not go to court - you mail it in and pay the fine when it is sent back to you. If the person choses to go to trial and not plea bargin then the officer will be called or a new date can be set for the trial. But check with our board to see if I am correct . . . .