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VOL. 132 | NO. 209 | Friday, October 20, 2017

Dan Conaway

Dan Conaway

Fix This Ticket

By Dan Conaway

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HARD MADE HARDER, THAT’S THE TICKET. Growing up, I felt deprived because I occasionally had to ride the bus. In college, I felt deprived because I didn’t have a car. When I got married, I felt deprived because we had only one.

I don’t know deprivation.

What is a traffic ticket to many is a pink slip if not a death warrant for far too many.

What amounts to a few bucks to many is a financial crisis for far too many.

What is taken for granted by many – the availability of some kind of ride – is an impossibility for far too many – made unfairly unavailable.

Part and parcel of what I wrote about last week, not being able to get there not only holds us back, lack of mobility and its passengers of poverty and despair make progress all but impossible. Yet the state suspends driver’s licenses because of unpaid tickets and citations without notice or consideration of ability to pay – punishing the indigent and working poor far more and far deeper than the rest of society – and with very real racial implications, depriving African-American drivers of their licenses four times more than white drivers.

There is not only no justice in that, there is no heart or hope in it either.

A couple of weeks ago, lawyers from the Civil Rights Corps, the National Center for Law and Economic Justice, Just City and Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz filed a federal class action lawsuit in Nashville challenging the suspension of driver’s licenses for pretty much driving while poor.

When a problem is this big – more than a quarter-million suspended licenses in Tennessee – maybe giving it a name, personalizing it, will help us understand its impact.

This from a Just City press release about one of the plaintiffs:

“Fred Robinson is a 32-year-old resident of Rutherford County, Tennessee. He suffers from serious disabilities and has been recommended for a liver transplant. In 2016, Mr. Robinson received traffic citations that carried fines and costs well beyond his means. When he could not pay, the Defendants suspended his license without considering his financial circumstances. Now, Mr. Robinson cannot get to the doctors, hospitals and pharmacies he needs because he does not have a driver’s license.”

Problem, thy name is Fred.

Fred can’t get to treatment anymore – maybe because he rolled through a stop sign on the way to the doctor or stayed too long in a parking place while he was there. People like Fred can’t get to work to make the money they need to pay the fines they have because they can’t pay the fines they have.

Irony, thy name is Tennessee.

Like the people with insurance not understanding the plight of 200,000-plus fellow Tennesseans without it. Like the people who can’t understand the reality of a $25 parking ticket costing someone a job, a trip to dialysis.

Us, thy name is Marie Antoinette, and there’s no cake out there to eat.

I’m a Memphian, and this class action suit is about class.

Dan Conaway, a communication strategist and author of “I’m a Memphian,” can be reached at dan@wakesomebodyup.com.

RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 61 61 6,453
MORTGAGES 46 46 4,081
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 0 0 694
BUILDING PERMITS 113 113 15,474
BANKRUPTCIES 19 19 3,289
BUSINESS LICENSES 15 15 1,317
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 0 0 0
MARRIAGE LICENSES 0 0 0