It's come to this: California town to charge $300 for ... 911 calls; Update: Correction added

A recession-flavored palate cleanser if ever there was one. As a commenter in Headlines put it yesterday, it’s “your money or your life” in policy form. What’s strange about this, though, is that they’re offering an alternative to the $300 fee — namely, an annual 911 “subscription” of just $48, which prompts the question of why they don’t just pass a $50 tax hike and force people to buy in. The way it’s set up now, the only people who won’t subscribe are the extremely stupid and the extremely poor, and while I don’t have much sympathy for the former, I have a lot for the latter. There’s no better way to do this?

Update: From the comments, a reminder that this isn’t merely “your money or your life.” It’s your money or their life: “Consider how many 911 calls are reports of incidents which have nothing to do with the caller; neighbors house on fire, assault in progress, car accidents, etc. and then think about how many of these calls will no longer be made.”

Update: It looked too bad to be true, and thankfully, it was:

“Journalists have been ringing our phones off the wall and even our town residents didn’t understand what we did, which shows the effects of viral misinformation,” says City Manager Leon Churchill. He and Mr. Maciel explain that the city of 80,000 copied the language from a law already adopted by 17 other California cities, including Fullerton and Costa Mesa. “Yes, we are having financial problems like all of California, which is up to its neck in debt because of the economy,” says Mr. Churchill. “But for some reason, this has morphed into reports that every time you dial 911, you get charged $300, which is untrue.”

In fact, the town says it has bent over backwards to accommodate its citizens by allowing them to subscribe to the service for $48 per household per year, $36 if the household is low-income. The $300 fee is charged only if the first responder, in this case with the fire department, administers medical treatment. Maciel explains that the city already had a private ambulance service, and wanted to augment that with a fire department that also had medical personnel.

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