Tag Archives: Kansas City

Ending KC Drug Prohibition Solves Violence, Need for Intrusive Govt. Surveillance Tech

Today Tony’s Kansas City highlights a statement by former City Council candidate and liberty activist Tracy Ward on the deployment of “Scattershot” technology to pick up gunfire activity through Kansas City:

Tracy Ward: “Why is this shot spotter program teaming with the ATA? What project for the ATA was the money originally earmarked for that they’re now using for the shot spotter? There just seems to be a lot of back room dealing in this situation. Where were the public meetings and the opportunity for testimony before this was put into place? The news just reports the hope that these surveillance mechanisms might be used to stop crimes with little statistical data to back up that idea. In reality, the public should know that those microphones in these shot spotters can pick up and listen to more than just gunfire.”

Tony responds:

Right now the rate of local violence and homicide is so bad that the locals seem more worried about security than guarding against any threat to civil liberties. Nevertheless, Tracy’s questions about new Kansas City surveillance tech are consistent with her local efforts to raise awareness about challenges to freedom in the digital age.

The elephant in this room is the cause of this wave of violence and homicide. Tracy is right in her claim that these surveillance mechanisms are worryingly intrusive, and Tony is right that Kansas City right now is focused on ways to secure life and property from violent criminals. Yet there is at least one policy option that urgently needs to be discussed as part of the solution, and for this I turn to the words of Neill Franklin, a retired police officer with 33 years of drug law enforcement:

Primarily, violence in this country. The cartels are now in over 200 cities in our country–with that comes violence. We have our neighborhood gangs–with that comes violence. And it is all attributed to prohibition of drugs in this country. And in order to eliminate that violence and harm we have to end our war on drugs.

You should also watch this video of Neill Franklin speaking to the National NAACP last year. His speech is a powerful indictment of the War on Drugs from a law enforcement perspective:
I submit that until we can deal with Kansas City’s gang problem, citizens will continue to be threatened by increasingly intrusive government surveillance, which Tracy fears, and Kansas City residents will continue to be insecure in their persons and property, which Tony fears. Yet we don’t need to live like this. Kansas City needs to come to a realization that the time is long past for this discussion to happen at all levels of our government.
Indeed, Kansas City may look to the example set by Columbia, Missouri. Popular discontent with the use of SWAT teams to enforce marijuana and drug search warrants forced the City Council and Police Department to change policy. Indeed, Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton has even endorsed marijuana legalization, indicating that this would do much to undermine criminal activity:
For taking these stances, and for further reforming the Columbia Police Department, Chief Burton has been been lauded by civil liberties and citizen groups in Columbia, who have expressed support for his leadership quite vocally. Yesterday, Keep Columbia Free Vice President Abhi Sivasailam noted to ABC 17 (KMIZ):
“All of these petitions are geared towards supporting Chief Burton and demonstrating there is a lot of public support for his tenure as police chief,” Sivasailam said.
The KCF petition points out Burton’s reforms within the department that have been applauded such as his limited use of SWAT teams when serving warrants and his endorsement of the legalization of marijuana.”I think he is a progressive and critical thinker about the laws we have instead of just blindly enforcing laws,” Sivasailam said, “The petitions are also meant to balance out opposition from CPOA’s request of removing the chief. We want to make sure the city manager hears everyones voice on this not just CPOA’s narrow one.”

What are the political risks to Burton’s stance in Columbia? As he is finding out, none. I’ll leave you with this final quote from an article in today’s Columbia Tribune:

Burton said he does not believe a majority of his department agrees with Cuttle and that the officers union is “running rampant.” He also said he believes the officers who are most vocal are having a hard time adjusting to accountability.
“Nobody likes being held accountable,” Burton said. “Rules had to be put into place to get things under control. It started with SWAT. Changes are not always comfortable.”

Matthes said the union told him its goal is to get Burton fired and that it plans to engage media outlets to foster a groundswell of public support for Burton’s ouster. “The exact opposite is what’s happening,” Matthes said. “What I’m hearing from the community, they don’t like the approach the fraternal order is using.”
Matthes said he also was contacted by officers who expressed embarrassment about the union’s tactics. Although he said he respects the views of officers who back the union’s statements, it is “painful” to see the union speak for others who do not agree.

 Kansas City, what say you?
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Some data on the earning tax

I was curious about the debate over the earnings tax in St. Louis and Kansas City, so I did what people naturally do when they don’t know things; I looked at the data. More particularly, I looked at census data on metropolitican statistical areas (MSA) for the change in population between 2008 and 2009 and matched it to this data set on American cities with an earnings tax of some kind. I didn’t have time to do anything sophisticated here, but the cities with earnings taxes seem to be at the lower end of population growth across the country. I coded for all the MSAs listed in the TaxFoundation data, excluding the larger multi-state MSAs like NYC or DC that have differing income tax restrictions depending on where you are. I also selected all the MSAs listed in states that have some earnings tax wherever you live.

There ended up being 57 MSAs listed in the population data that I identified as having earning taxes. They range from Flint, Michigan with a  -1.12% growth rate in 2008-2009, to Denver, Colorado, who experienced a 2.1% growth rate over the same period. Of these 57 MSAs, 45 are in the bottom half of cities ranked by population grown (the average MSA  in 2008-2009 had a population growth rate of roughly .87%) and 9 were in the upper 50%.

This of course is not the whole story. The data only gives us an incomplete glimpse into what’s happening at a specific moment in time and doesn’t give us any information about trends. I would assume that young cities with high rates of growth might implement an earnings tax but that the tipping point isn’t reached for a while, but without controlling for how long each of these earning taxes have been in place I can’t make that conclusion. There are also many other idiosyncratic determinants of population growth that the data doesn’t allow me to engage. There is also a substantial risk that my data selection is incomplete. Regardless, it is suggestive that close to 90% of identified MSAs with earnings taxes are below the average MSA population growth rate; it suggests that earnings taxes has a dampening if not negative effect on population growth, particularly in cities hit hard by the recession.

If I have time this week I’ll try to expand on this, but no promises. Here is Dr. Haslag from the Show-Me Institute with a more sophisticated analysis and I quote in part:

How much of this phenomenon can actually be attributed to the city earnings tax? Saint Louis and Kansas City are hardly the only earnings-tax-enforcing cities that are losing economic power from their base state. Cities such as Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Cincinnati have also seen losses in employment to neighboring states. In fact, from 1998 to 2006, every MSA that includes counties from two or more states, in which one enforces a city income tax, has seen a decline in the ratio of employment within the area subject to an earnings tax relative to total MSA employment, even while similar multistate MSAs without earning taxes have experienced, on average, a modest increase in that ratio during the same period

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