2016 Libertarian Party presidential candidate Steve Kerbel is spearheading efforts to qualify a ballot initiative to redirect monies collected from traffic tickets and fines to charity instead of to the issuing government agencies. From an article in Colorado Politics (“‘Stop the shakedown’: Colorado ballot measure would go beyond halting collections of speed trap fines,” by Marianne Goodland, Dec. 12):
Nik Loecher likes the police in his small town of 528. “They make us feel safe and protected,” he said, as he leaned over the counter of his family-owned business.
But some, like former Libertarian presidential candidate Steve Kerbel of Colorado Springs, think about the town and its police department differently – that it relies too much on revenue from traffic tickets and fines – and he intends to do something about it through a ballot measure in the 2018 election.
Kerbel’s ballot measure, however, goes far beyond just stopping small towns from collecting fines through speed traps. The ballot measure also would put the skids on fines collected by city, county and state governments.
Those speed traps have led Kerbel to push for the ballot measure to halt what he calls “shakedowns” of citizens for money to pay for town services. It’s not about safety, he told Colorado Politics – it’s about revenue.
Kerbel’s idea is that fines for traffic offenses that are paid to communities like Mountain View instead should go to charity.
But the measure’s impact would be much more far-reaching. It would halt collection of fines in virtually every county and municipality and in state government, for any purpose. That includes fines assessed in criminal, civil or forfeiture situations, as well as fines assessed against individuals and businesses and by any government entity in Colorado that has the authority to levy fines.
Taking those fines away from the governments that collect them could result in the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars, as well as impact programs those fines support.
The ballot measure Kerbel has filed doesn’t stop the speed traps or the enforcement of various regulations and laws that result in fines, but he believes it will stop unnecessary enforcement.
In September, Kerbel got the green light to start collecting petition signatures to put his initiative on the ballot for 2018. He has until March to pick up the 98,492 necessary signatures. The measure is statutory, which means petitions do not have to have the new requirements of collecting signatures in Colorado’s 35 senate districts. The measure would need approval from at least 55 percent of voters in 2018.
Kerbel says he has so far collected about 10,000 signatures and is fundraising for a paid canvassing firm. Between that group and volunteers he is confident he can get the rest. Kerbel also said they have done some polling with Magellan Strategies, and once people understand what the measure does they are strongly in favor of it.
While Kerbel’s measure seems like a long shot at best, Colorado voters have been known to go for long shots.
Traffic enforcement in communities like Mountain View “is a huge shakedown,” Kerbel said recently.
“It’s gone crazy and turned on us, for purposes we don’t want.” The current system isn’t cost-efficient, he explained, stating that it would be cheaper for these towns to contract with neighboring cities for police or other city services. Mountain View could contract with Wheat Ridge, Kerbel suggested, for about one-sixth of the current costs.
“The way I look at it, a city that survives off of highway robbery should not be a city,” Kerbel added.
Kerbel dismisses the idea that the traffic enforcement is about safety. “Let’s see what they say about safety if they can’t keep the money,” he said.
Kerbel’s ballot measure declares that governments that receive a financial benefit from enforcement – and that includes municipal regulations, too – creates a mistrust of law enforcement and a conflict of interest. Fines collected should first go to victims of crime, if any. After that, the fines would go to a “legitimate charity,” chosen by the person who pays the fine, according to the measure’s language.
“It saves lives, feeds the hungry, houses the homeless, and it’s tax deductible,” Kerbel said, adding that changing the way fines are used would narrow the chasm between people and law enforcement. “The only losers are the government.”
Kerbel believes state government is as much in the business of overreach as the small towns. “What they’ve done is turn innocent people into bad people with too much money for enforcement,” he told Colorado Politics.
“If you really do something wrong, that’s why we have enforcement,” Kerbel said. He believes that not everyone in the state is a criminal, yet says the state government treats people that way. No entity in the state is fully funded by fines, he noted. State agencies “will have to take a haircut and that’s good for the people of the state.”