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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Linndale Mayor's Court: And Into The History Books We Go

Posted By on Tue, Mar 19, 2013 at 10:29 AM

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It's 10:30 a.m. on a dreary Tuesday morning, but you can hear the anticipatory cheers of "Hooray!" and "Whoopee!" as far as the southern reaches of, oh, say, Medina County and beyond. Commuters of all walks of life are celebrating what may just be the happiest day of their lives: the end of the Linndale Mayor's Court's I-71 wrath.

WKSU is featuring a really terrific look at what's going to change (and what's not going to change [hint: bullish attitudes]) now that soon-to-be-enacted legislation eliminates mayor's courts for towns with populations of less than 200. Note that speeding tickets can (and will) still be issued, but the cases will head to Parma Municipal Court.

Eight other tiny communities across Ohio fall into the bill's sights, but Linndale is the only one with such a demonized reputation.

And rightfully so.

Officers have spent decades siphoning money off drivers heading into or out of Cleveland and lining the public coffers. The town, which boasts a minute 179 residents, issued more than 4,000 speeding tickets in 2011 alone. Zooming in, the epicenter of this blood-sucking is a 422-yard stretch of I-71. (And like a many-noduled tumor, this thing's got a second epicenter that catches drivers daring to top out at 26 mph along Memphis Avenue.)

On a recent Wednesday afternoon, WKSU web editor M.L. Schultze stopped by the dreary council chambers, which serves as the town's courtroom. Magistrate George Sadd swells with irony as he addresses the several dozen poor souls before him: "I’ve never seen so many unhappy looking faces. Come on guys, smile. This is traffic court; this is not felonious murder court.”

The truth, however, is that this isn't going to be a traffic court for much longer. The death knell to small-time mayor's courts comes down at the end of this week.

And that measure is due to State Sen. Tom Patton successfully attaching a rider to an unrelated bill last fall after trying to get this concept approved for years. The senator sums his concern up nicely: "This is all about someone taking advantage of a small part of the freeway that they own and turning it into a cash register."

He went on to tell WKSU: "In the 50 years or so that I’ve driven through Linndale, I’ve never seen somebody helping stranded motorists. I’ve never seen one of their guys writing an accident report. They hide in the shadows under a bridge and it’s a trap.”

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