EDITORIAL: City courts should be moneymakers

2013-01-17T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: City courts should be moneymakers nwitimes.com
January 17, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The heat is on in Lake Station, where discussion of the city court erupted into shouting and heated exchanges at the City Council meeting last week. Despite all the sound and fury, there is an opportunity for rational analysis.

There's plenty of sound and fury, too. 

At a special Lake Station City Council meeting last Thursday to discuss revenue generated by the city court, tempers flared to the extent that City Judge Chris Anderson implied Mayor Keith Soderquist was a liar.

City Attorney Ray Szarmach got up to leave, telling the council, "I feel guilty charging the city for being here today because I don't think we're making any headway."

Szarmach then suggested appointing a three-member committee to discuss the issue with Anderson and Kim Frizzell, the court clerk.

This has been a battle over personalities, but it should be distilled to a simple public policy equation.

The simple question to ask is whether court revenues meet or exceed the cost of running the court.

Plug in the numbers, recognizing that if a municipal court is shut down those duties — handling small claims clases and traffic tickets — will be picked up by courts at the county level.

What benefit is there to having a city court if the outlays exceed the revenues? 

Government should not be an employment agency. Rather, the city courts exist to provide additional money for the city.

Leave the personal issues aside and look at whether municipal courts are moneymakers or losers. If they don't generate enough money to cover their costs, shut them down.

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