Monday, August 27, 2007

How hard up is the city for money?

If the Common Council goes for Ald. Tony Zielinski's proposal to charge a fee for being booked into Police Department custody, we'll know the city's financial condition is worse than imagined.

There are some logistical challenges associated with the fee, especially if it is assessed against only those convicted of a crime. First the courts would have to sort out who was booked by Milwaukee as opposed, to say, Wauwatosa, Whitefish Bay, or Cudahy. How much would the state court system charge the city to perform that little administrative task? How much would it cost the state to get a computer system that could do it? Think the federal courts would be willing to spend millions so Milwaukee could collect its $20 per book-ee fee?

Then there would be that pesky matter of collection. Is the city going to have automatic canteen account deductions for prison inmates? Will debt collectors be sent to Waupun to track down the scofflaws?

The city needs money, and this proposal needs a lot more thinking about.

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