New frontiers in freeloading

Paul Mirengoff has brought us a long-running series on “The war on standards” in the name of equality of results. The Democrats have devoted their creative juices to seeking new frontiers to conquer in erasing natural distinctions in the treatment of fellow citizens or those residing in the space formerly occupied by citizens. The concept of citizenship is well on its way to erasure as well.

Melvin Carter is the recently elected mayor of St. Paul. If it is still possible to parody leftist clichés, Carter might be the walking version. Late last month he delivered a budget address focused on the St. Paul Public Library system and featuring the abolition of late fines (video below). So reports Frederick Melo in the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Melo’s story is anything but cynical. It reads, however, like something of a satire:

With an eye toward the disproportionate impact on low-income neighborhoods, the mayor is asking that the city council eliminate $2.5 million in uncollected debt to the library system, effective immediately. That would unlock 51,000 blocked library accounts.

In addition, the mayor proposed dedicating $215,000 next year to help the library system eliminate fines for overdue materials entirely. Currently, library users who fail to pay off their fines are blocked from borrowing books, CDs and other library collections, a penalty Carter hopes to make a thing of the past.

Carter said he has spoken with “people all over the city who have even admitted, somewhat embarrassed, that ‘I haven’t been to the library in years because I have late fees.’”

The mayor said the average fine is $33, but an unpaid fine of as little as $10 can get a library patron blocked.

But the mayor’s budget does not eliminate replacement fees. If cardholders lose a book or other item, they still have to pay for it. And, failure to return an item on time can still result in an account frozen.

I love this:

Prince noted that the library system hasn’t had fines on chldren’s books for several years and they are returned at the same rate.

“Fines don’t impact behavior,” she said. “We will continue to make people pay for lost materials.”

The City Council hasn’t yet approved proposal. They reportedly would like to take a look at the data. Despite the alleged failure of fines to affect behavior — they do prevent borrowers who don’t pay the fines from borrowing more books — City Council member Dan Bostrom has the temerity to ask: “If fines are eliminated, what’s the incentive to return materials?”

I have a few more questions. Doesn’t a borrower’s failure to return a book on time adversely affect borrowers who can least afford to buy books? And how will you know when a book is “lost” rather than simply “overdue”? Listening to the mayor’s remarks at excruciating length in the video, I am pretty sure he hasn’t thought through the predictable effects of his modest proposal.


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