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Curses! Foiled again

By MARCELLA S. KREITER   |   Nov. 14, 2002 at 4:42 PM   |   Comments

CHICAGO, Nov. 14 (UPI) -- A lot of Chicagoans are going to be mighty POed over the city's latest move to increase revenue without raising taxes but cussing out the nearest alderman will only net a big fine.

The City Council is considering a measure, to be voted on next month, that would increase the cost of a well-chosen curse word to as much as $300.

Aw nuts! What's a good traffic altercation without a few imprecation's about the other guy's parentage?

The fine increases are part of a proposed ordinance that boosts a number of city fees and fines that have not been raised in two decades in a bid to erase a $116 million budget deficit.

Chicago isn't alone in such moves. Across the country cities facing an economy-induced cash crunch are taking action. Some cities are so desperate they're buying police cars for $1 from a North Carolina company, which will plaster the vehicles with advertisements.

"We're trying to find creative measures to collect fees owed us," Chicago City Clerk James Laski told ABC.

Alderman Bill Beavers, a former police officer, said the profanity fines are a matter of "morality."

"I mean, we just have too much profanity," said Beavers, who chairs the budget committee.

The fine increases aren't sitting well with some.

"If they enforce this ordinance, the majority of Chicago would be in jail," National Black United Front spokesman Conrad Worrill told the Chicago Defender. "I think it's infantile."

"Well, you're damned if you do and damned if you don't," Beavers said. (That will be $600 alderman). But don't worry about the profanity police.

"They're not going up and down the street, picking up people for cursing," Beavers told UPI Thursday. "In public places, those kind of situations (where) it's not enough to arrest somebody ... they can issue a citation."

Beavers said police wrote 3,000 citations last year for indecent acts.

"I forget how much we collected, but it was quite a bit," Beavers said.

Such ordinances are nothing new but in recent years rarely have been enforced.

A Michigan man who fell out of his canoe and let loose with a stream of invective was convicted in 1999 under a 105-year-old law barring vulgar language in the presence of women and children. The state's appellate court overturned that conviction earlier this year reasoning "a prosecution where one utters 'insulting' language could possibly subject a vast percentage of the populace to a misdemeanor conviction."

Nonetheless, the city of Troy, Mich., is serious about stamping out potty mouth, imposing up to 90 days in jail and $500 fines for violations.

And for those who prefer more traditional Old World curses like, "May you be stricken with cholera," there's no need to give the evil eye. Beavers said those are safe.

© 2002 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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