Obey traffic laws.
The latest Bush recession has put a lot of financial pressure on municipalities, here in NY and presumably in every other state.
Counties, cities and towns will be receiving less revenue from state aid, real estate transactions, and property taxes from those in or near foreclosure.
At the same time that their expenses are going up -- for employees and their health insurance, for gasoline and other energy expenses, for construction materials for roads and buildings, etc.
One way municipalities can, and will, make up for that is by having their police forces issue more traffic tickets.
As I heard secondhand recently from a town judge, and saw myself firsthand during a morning in traffic court of my city.
Forewarning details below.
First, the secondhand bit -- a friend of mine had been in a town traffic court recently (for his son's ticket), then ran into the judge at a closing a few weeks after that.
The judge recognized him, and told him to make extra sure that he and his kids did not speed; drove vehicles that were registered, inspected and insured, and had all their lights working; signaled all their lane changes and turns; wore seat belts; etc.
Because, the judge said, town cops were looking to write as many tickets as possible.
Second, the firsthand bit -- I got a ticket on Memorial Day from a rookie cop for wearing headphones while driving.
I was unaware that that was illegal, and told the cop so. He wrote me up anyway.
I decided to fight it, so spent a couple of hours in city court earlier this month.
In watching a score or so of minor traffic miscreants -- speeding, stop signs, seat belts, etc. -- go before the judge, all but a couple had to pay at least $100, and a few had to pay $200-plus.
None had a lawyer, but everyone had accepted a plea bargain to some lesser violation, and had agreed to the fine.
I got lucky.
In my plea session with the city lawyer, I argued that the headphones prohibition was unpublicized and generally unknown, specifically in my case; that wearing headphones was less dangerous than having a light out (which I just had seen being "dismissed in the interests of justice"); that I was a city resident who had been law-abiding and paying lots of taxes for 20-plus years; etc.
The lawyer offered me a plea hat would have resulted in an unmentioned fine (from what I had seen, at least $100); I said I was disappointed by the offer.
He said the police would be annoyed if he let me off.
I looked him in the eye and repeated my arguments, and he eventually relented and gave me a "dismissed in the interests of justice" plea.
It's the first time in my life I made $50-plus an hour, even though it was in avoiding a fine for a picayune traffic offense.
The city lawyer did not have to tell me that he generally gets people to take pleas that cost them $100-$200, resulting in a few thousand a week in traffic court income that the city is counting on in tough times.
I had seen the results of those pleas in court.
So, fair warning to you all, cops everywhere are looking, more than ever in this difficult time for municipalities, for ways to generate non-tax revenue from people who disregard traffic laws.
I'm sure that others in the community have similar tales to tell.