Our local paper, the Boerne Factual, warns our citizens to pay their municipal citations before the "Great Texas Warrant Round Up," coming in March. According to the paper, there are 96 outstanding warrants in Boerne. They refer you to the city website for a list.
It took some time, but I found where they buried the list, and did some checking.
The list shows 691 outstanding citations, not 96. They embrace 966 violations, going back to 2006. The outstanding fines total $342,000, not chump change.
The great majority of the offenders' names are Hispanic. Discrimination? Maybe. But when I look at the fines, something occurs to me. Here's a typical pattern: in April 2008, Angel Garcia Hernandez got pulled over because his registration was expired. Turned out that he didn't have a driver's license or insurance. Total fines, $1,042. Invent a picture of Angel Garcia Hernandez, who has no registration, license, or insurance, and tell me whether he has an extra $1,042 lying around. If he shows up for court, he's going to end up in jail. If he's in jail, he can't work and earn a living for his family. What segment of society is likely to be hit hardest by that dilemma? What segment of society is least likely to have a paid-up license, registration, and insurance?
I don't know anything about Angel Garcia Hernandez, but I know that most families in Kendall County can't afford to get socked with a $1,000 fine. I also know that Mr. Hernandez's offenses don't strike me as a $1,000 matter. How about not fining Santiago Diaz $346 for having expired plates? How about not fining Juan Tovar Briones $454 for an expired inspection sticker? I can think of a few other helpful changes and programs.
Cities levy these huge fines because they are a source of revenue, but they are worse than regressive—they are oppressive. Our lowest level of law enforcement should not prey on the most vulnerable.