Monday, April 25, 2011

The Hits Keep Coming in Montebello

We've been keeping a closer eye on the San Gabriel Valley city of Montebello ever since state Controller John Chiang ordered an audit of the city's finances last week, amid signs of corruption and fears that the town may go bankrupt later this year. Our interest was further piqued on Saturday, when an LA Times report suggested that the city has no idea how much money they actually owe to creditors. In both pieces, we've been cautiously drawing parallels between this situation and those in the simlarly-disgraced governments of Bell and Maywood. Well, it turns out we may be on to something.

We've got your car right here!
According to California Watch, Montebello may have made extensive use of a revenue-generator that both Bell and Maywood are notorious for: impounded every car they could get their hands on. According to Ryan Gabrielson's report, during the last fiscal year, Montebello police impounded 100 cars for every drunk-driving arrest at checkpoints on holidays alone (the state average is 6 cars per arrest), and failed to conduct sobriety tests in four out of every six checkpoints at any time. Apparently, because it gets a cut from local tow operators, checkpoints brought Montebello about $95,000 last year.

One school of thought may view this without protest: so many Californians these days seem to calmly accept whatever their governments choose to put them through. But it bothers us. For one thing, the city is in grave danger of bankruptcy, so it's a fair question to ask what the hell they did with all that money. For another, Montebello operates some of California's least effective sobriety checkpoints, in terms of getting drunk drivers off the road, so it's also fair to ask whether this nonsense helped to protect the public safety. But mostly it bothers us because, you know, we take the concept of property rights seriously. What we have here is a city seizing innocent citizens' cars to make them pay to get them back: explain to us how that isn't carjacking?

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