- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 1, 2002

Motorists in the District will be slapped with higher fines for parking violations under the budget proposed by Mayor Anthony A. Williams and the D.C. Council, which this summer voted to give itself the same parking privileges as members of Congress.
The increases come at a time when the city faces a $323 million shortfall in the fiscal 2003 budget.
The amount motorists will have to pay will increase at least 50 percent for some violations.
Fines will increase from $20 to $30 for parking in an alley, disobeying an official sign, parking in a no-parking zone and parking for more than two hours in a residential parking area without a permit. An expired-meter ticket will increase from $15 to $25, and a commercial bus or sightseeing vehicle parked in front of a residence or in another illegal space will jump from $20 to $500.
The new fine amounts were proposed March 18 but were never heard or voted on by the D.C. Council. They were deemed approved on July 13, when they were folded into a budget-support act the council passed before it went into summer recess.
That same month, D.C. Council members voted 10-3 to give themselves the privilege of parking at any open curb space in the city except in loading zones, on streets restricted at rush hour, in crosswalks and no-parking zones, or near firehouses or fire hydrants. Mr. Williams recently approved that proposal, and it is in effect while council members are on official business.
Council member Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican and chairman of the committee that oversees parking issues, proposed the exemption, saying the council deserved the exemption because members of Congress have it.
Mrs. Schwartz would not comment on the parking privileges yesterday. Contacted at home, she said the increases in fines were decided on in February. She also said Mr. Williams had proposed fine increases of as much as 166 percent and that she and the other council members had reduced the amount.
"It has nothing to do with the budget," Mrs. Schwartz said of the jump in fines. "You will be absolutely misleading the public if you act like something is happening."
But the budget-support act approved in July stated that "it is anticipated that the proposed $10.00 increase in these fines will conservatively generate $8,541,644 in revenue. This amounts to more than the Mayor's anticipated revenue estimate proposed in the Fiscal Year 2003 budget and financial plan submitted to the Council."
Council member Adrian Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat, countered comments that the budget gap wasn't a consideration.
"This is solely for revenue. Anybody who doesn't admit that isn't being fully up front with you," Mr. Fenty said yesterday.
The new fines will go into effect after Congress approves the District's $5.3 billion budget, which the D.C. Council must send to Capitol Hill today. City administrator John Koskinen said yesterday that Congress could approve the budget by mid-October.
Gary Imhoff, vice president of DCWatch, a watchdog organization, criticized both the council's increased privileges and the increase in fines.
"The council giving itself an exemption from parking tickets was an outrageous grab for privilege in itself. If parking is such a serious problem that fines need to be raised again, then the council should rescind the exemption it gave itself," Mr. Imhoff said.
"You don't punish crimes to make a profit. It's inappropriate to make law enforcement a revenue center. It's wrongheaded. Government should punish crime in order to discourage crime and no further," he said.
Mr. Koskinen said the city's reason for increasing parking violation penalties is to deter law-breaking.
"The primary purpose for all this is to help people pay attention to what the rules are," Mr. Koskinen said. "When the ticket price is low, people take their chances overparking at a meter instead of parking at a garage. There are people out there playing ticket roulette."
The District has hired about 170 additional parking-enforcement officers in the past six months, Mr. Koskinen said, as part of the effort to cut down on parking violations.
"We expect that we'll collect more revenue at the front end of this, but as people understand that there are more people on the street enforcing this, we'll bring in less revenue. We're prepared for that. We've planned for that," he said.
A similar revenue-generating plan was introduced in New York City. Fine increases for 32 parking infractions will go into effect today. Fines for the most serious infractions are increasing from $55 to $105. The increases were proposed by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in February to raise $62 million for the city.

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