Some South Bend politicians say the city shouldn't have to foot the bill for police overtime for protecting visiting big shots and handling such things as crowd control and traffic messes. So they have a proposal:
It would require any person or group who hosts a dignitary, like the President of the United States, to foot the bill for extra police protection.
The idea first surfaced last summer, after the city shelled out more than $18,000 in overtime costs for police protection and crowd control during the 2008 presidential campaign.
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"Taxpayers have had to take the burden of paying for these types of things," said South Bend Common Council President Derek Dieter (D). "We feel, at this time, with all the budget issues surrounding the city, it's time that the people who are coming into town, or the entities asking for the extra police protection are charged for it."
On one level, it's hard to disagree with this. People who cause the extra expense have to pay for it, and those of us who aren't involved are spared. But it could discourage some groups on a tight budget from inviting important/interesting people to town.
And it's troubling in a different way, too. We designate something as a public service because we think it should be there if and when we need it. So we all pay the same amount for it, whether we use it a lot or not at all. I don't have any kids in school, but I don't expect parents to pay more in school taxes so I can be exempted. It's easy to see how the attitude behind this proposal could lead to suggestions that all of us should pay for things like police and fire protection on a per-use basis.