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Issue #9 - local-government inspections and police

Under the radar of public attention, local governments in the United States are routinely abusing property owners. The main abuse is delivered through the inspections process. The burgeoning nonprofit sector, adept at using other people's money, provides the political infrastructure for rancorous campaigns against small business owners conducted by elected officials.

City governments abuse people in some of the following ways: 1. They shift the blame for crime from themselves and their police departments to the owners of “problem properties” who are accused of condoning crime. The property owners so stigmatized are then punished by city inspectors who have limitless powers to find code violations and impose fines, if not condemn the properties. 2. Regarding inspections as a profit center, city officials instruct inspectors to generate maximum revenue by finding code violations and fining the supposed offenders. 3. Inspections may be ordered to punish certain property owners so they will walk away from their investment or sell at a low price to a developer who is connected with city officials.

Such corruption may be widespread in American cities, but it attracts little attention. Most journalists do not understand the issue. Owners of small businesses in poor neighborhoods are stereotyped by the writing class as greedy people who exploit the poor.

Progressive Republicans should take the lead in identifying abusive government and enacting legislation to combat it. The archives of the Minneapolis Property Rights Action Committee contains numerous documents relating to local-government abuse. Be suspicious of those who spend other people's money rather than their own and then feel superior because they "help" poor people instead of doing business with them.

Also, we need to reassert civilian control over the local police. We need to demilitarize the police to establish a better working relation with the communities they allegedly serve. Cut down on unnecessary police shootings. Eliminate police seizures of money and property.

Local law enforcement is engaged in "highway robbery" of motorists "suspected" of drug or other illegal activity which gained more than $2.5 billion. A recent study by the Washington Post found that police agencies have made 62,000 cash seizures (robberies) on highways and elsewhere since 9/11 under the so-called "Equitable Sharing Program" without search warrants. This violates Constitutional prohibition of unreasonable searches and seizures. The local police agencies kept $1.7 billion, and Homeland Security most of the rest.

 

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