Links for December 19th

  • New York Times: Nearly a Third of Americans Are Arrested by 23, Study Says
    30.2% of us have been arrested for something more serious than a minor traffic violation. (I say "us," but I haven't been arrested.) As Sen. Webb points out, either Americans are the most evil people on the planet, or something is fundamentally wrong with our criminal justice system.
  • AP: Tennessee home burns as firefighters watch
    When a couple in rural Tennessee found their home on fire, they called 911 and got out. When the firefighters arrived, they stood and watched as the home burned to the ground. The couple couldn't afford the annual $75 firefighting subscription fee that the county charges, so the responding crew wasn't allowed to so much as turn on a hose.
  • Maciej Cegłowski: Don’t Be A Free User
    The developer of Pinboard explains the importance of relying on businesses that have a business model that involves actually making money. Comes with a handy chart. When I grow up, I want to be Maciej Cegłowski.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

20 replies on “Links for December 19th”

  1. They couldn’t afford the fee? It said that?

    Your description of the events is part of the problem. There are numerous fire departments around the country that have a defined jurisdiction. Residents within the jurisdiction pay taxes that fund the fire department. In some places, there is NO municipal fire service, but residents who live close enough to another municipality have the option of paying a relatively small fee to be covered. Sounds like these folks CHOSE not to be covered.

    Should we also condemn State Farm or Allstate for not paying the homeowner for his loss, just because he didn’t have a policy?

  2. They couldn’t afford the fee? It said that?

    As I recall, yes. But the AP story that URL points to is now a different story than the one that I linked to ~10 days ago when I saved that link to Pinboard.

    Should we also condemn State Farm or Allstate for not paying the homeowner for his loss, just because he didn’t have a policy?

    No, because fire departments are government institutions charged with collective protection, while those are private businesses. Your logic would apply just as neatly to police departments that refuse to intervene when somebody is being held hostage because they have failed to pay their police subscription. Both of these things are core functions of government that should be available to everybody, funded collectively.

  3. Waldo, should the Charlottesville fire dept be blamed if a house in Albemarle burns down? That’s what is going on here. It’s only a core function of government if the citizens in that jurisdiction decide that it is. The citizens of Obion County have decided that fire protection is not a county function.

    nicholas, the yahoo link has nothing that proves — or even claims — they couldn’t afford the $75 annual fee. They simply chose not to pay it.

    But sure, let’s apply some common sense here.

    First, it is false to say (as Waldo did) that the county charges $75 for fire protection. The county doesn’t charge anything because the county doesn’t offer it. If the good people of Obion County want fire protection, they should create a fire department. They haven’t done that.

    However, the nice folks in the city of South Fulton have offered to provide the service to county residents. Residents of the city already pay for it through their taxes. County residents don’t pay a dime for it… unless they choose to pay $75 annually. Sounds very reasonable.

    What world do you live in where you think that everything should be free. Of course, nothing the government does is free, but you apparently think that whatever you want should be paid for by somebody else.

  4. Wiht just a minor tweak, Waldo, very well said: “public safety functions should be available to everyone and funded collectively?” . Goes for health care, too… somehow police & fire protection & basic health care just don’t fall under “whatever you want” as if they are $6 lattes or designer clothes. How dare those folks “want” to be protected on the collective dime, what hubris!

  5. ON the fire dept. thing, I wonder why did they even show up to the fire if they knew they weren’t going to put it out? But once they were there, shouldn’t there be an option of paying $1000 to have the fire put out? Wouldn’t that serve the interests of the taxpayers of the county that has the fire trucks.

    The 30% figure only cites those arrested, not those convicted. A distinction worth noting. But if a lot of people are being arrested I’m not sure that is an indictment (hey, a pun) of our criminal justice system.

  6. As Yogi Berra said, it’s deja vu all over again.

    From Tennessee – again – last year:

    In that case^^, (1) the owners of the house and their neighbors both offered to pay the $75 fee while the firefighters were there. They were not allowed to do so. And, (2) four family pets died in the fire.

    Crazy times we live in when anyone thinks it’s appropriate for a fire department to let a house burn down over a $75 fee.

  7. Yea, but that came from Fox, so I don’t believe it. I would think that someone is going to find a jury that won’t go along with this. Does this article say why they showed up to the fire in the first place? I wonder if they go in case there is a death or injury. And that they’ll do that but won’t help with any property damage.

  8. The fire department probably showed up and stayed in case the fire spread to an adjacent, protected structure?
    I once watched someone die for want of a tracheotomy. Even if the ambulance had arrived in time, they were forbidden from performing surgical procedures. Even those among them who were trained to. Liability issues. I (with no training)could have, and knowing what I know today, hopefully would have, as a good samaritan and probably have been hailed as a hero. They however had rules to adhere to, the rules we live and sometimes die by.
    Maybe standing by and watching the fire was harder for that department than fighting it would have been. These were after all professional firefighters. But what would’ve happened to any among them who might have been injured or killed doing so? Presumably in violation of the terms of their employment.
    And what if, while doing so, another call came in for a fire at a protected structure which they couldn’t timely respond to because they were putting out a fire they shouldn’t have been. What if that delay had led to loss of life?
    I’m surprised their homeowners insurance (assuming here) didn’t require them to sign up for coverage.

  9. You have to understand how volunteer fire companies operate: The fire alert (911/call) goes out over FD frequencies to pagers and the volunteers, they saddle up and get to the incident location on their own. In this particular case the fire commander arrived carrying the message that the address was not subscribed, and HE, the head jack-a-lope ordered his fire fighters to stand down.

    Fee-base public safety is the conservative view of our future. It has arrived in Tennessee.

  10. The issue here is localities that construct funding mechanisms that leave their citizens vulnerable to ‘political douchebaggery’ of this order…and to a lesser extent the citizens that allow it. If you want to offer fee based services, then charge a fee for park usage, not public safety services.

    Also, as an infrequent troll here I take great joy in the posting of good ole’ I.Publius. Dear God man, you must start a blog, or write a book…about something, anything! Your twisted mental gymnastics are Olympic in their execution and truly a mind-boggling joy to experience. Well Done! All those years of ‘echo chamber’ training seem to be paying fat dividends!

  11. Perhaps Tim can do more than toss insults. Perhaps not.

    You seem to be among the mental midgets who are blaming the city’s fire department, rather than the true responsible parties here — the county that fails to protect its residents, and the homeowners who failed to pay the $75 fee. Do you have the slightest concept of what a “duty” is? What duty was the city fire department under? I’ll give you a hint — they had a duty to keep the fire from spreading. That’s it.

    At least “****” demonstrates an understanding of what transpired here, and is smart enough to refrain from Tim & Bubby’s form of knee-jerk bloviating. The intellectual level of most of the comments is rather disappointing, though.

  12. Unfortunately for you my dear Publius, **** gets almost none of it right, from Good Samaritan protections for responders, to the Obion, Tennessee VOLUNTEER fire department status. All **** did was find common cause with your jaundiced world view.

    What I find most interesting is that residents of Obion County Tennessee have turned on this user-fee public services nonsense and the elected officials who gave it to them. Proving once again that the vast majority of people have no interest in living within the miserable world envisioned by conservative ideology – when they are actually required to do so.

    That is why you remain a part of the permanent minority, mumbling elitist fantasies that if only people were as smart as you, or as dutiful, they would be with you. But fact is there just aren’t enough miserable, faithless, got-mine quitters in the world ready to buy your miserable world view. Must suck to be you.

  13. Side note on the origins of the term “fire sale” in ancient Rome:

    Most notorious was his acquisition of burning houses: when Crassus received word that a house was on fire, he would arrive and purchase the doomed property along with surrounding buildings for a modest sum, and then employ his army of 500 clients to put the fire out before much damage had been done. Crassus’ clients employed the Roman method of firefighting—destroying the burning building to curtail the spread of the flames.[6]

    I’ve read accounts where Crassus’s fire department (army) would show up to property, fight off other fire departments, and then haggle prices with property owners to put out the flames. Crassus was involved in a lot of property transactions. Of course arson was involved.

    The history of private fire brigades in the U.S. involved companies fighting over districts and even fighting at the scene of the fire over who got to put it out. Never mind the politics.

    But back to the story, it’s interesting that the county continues with the subscription service. I’m guessing the local politics run deep on this issue.

  14. OK, Waldo, so you have never been arrested? How about have you ever done anything for which you could have been arrested? Oh, I forgot, you’re working for the WH now and not available for comment.

  15. Great fire sale story, grs!

    Robert, you’re asking if I’ve ever committed a crime? :) I’m sure I have! Nothing springs to mind, but I’m sure I’ve trespassed, and I know I’ve broken Charlottesville’s anti-swearing ordinance on many occasions. :)

  16. It’s pretty obvious why they can’t accept the $75 on the spot — it’s the same reason you can’t get normally-priced insurance once you’ve been hit by a car (or cancer, or the old-age stick): If you *could*, no one would pay up-front, and there would be no service, period.

  17. Tim, of course you’re right. But how about some kind of compromise. Such as $1000. Or something based on the number of engines and personnel that are needed. If you went that route it would have to be set up so that there wasn’t any negotiating while the fire was going. Seems hard to believe that a fire company would turn up their nose to a $1000 check. Maybe $1000 isn’t enough. At some point the fire co. would be thrilled to put out the fire and people would decide that $75 was a better deal. One way or another there should be a way to prevent fire personnel from standing around watching someone’s house burn down. They just have to be creative in figuring how how to do that.

  18. Maybe a credit card terminal on the side of the fire truck? It has to be something 1) fast, and 2) final. Checks can bounce, and who wouldn’t write a bad check to keep their house from burning down?

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