- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 6, 2003

D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican, has posed one of the best parking-related questions since members of the council gave themselves a get-out-of-a-parking-ticket perk last July.
"Is it worth The Washington Times making this the most important issue in the history of the world?" Mrs. Schwartz said through a spokesman.
The attempt of the eternal mayoral candidate to deflect the double standard with hyperbole is understandable. We get the essence of her point. We feel her pain. Now feel our pain, which could be difficult. She seems to have lost touch with the masses. Being a politician can do that to a person.
The issue is important because of the madness. The parking-ticket game has become a racket, the political equivalent of panhandling. The council members know it, Mayor Anthony A. Williams and his minions know it, and all the victims who pay the fines know it.
It is about a political leadership that has run out of revenue-generating ideas. If you no longer can increase some of the most onerous taxes in the nation and you are baffled by the flight of the middle class to the suburbs, you are reduced to fining the poor soul who has parked his vehicle one inch too far from the curb or going to Capitol Hill to plead with members of Congress.
Parking is one of those low-level headaches that never goes away for those who live or do business in the city. It just hangs in the air each day, festering, waiting to strike if you happen to be unlucky or don't have a company-paid space in a garage or lack the financial resources to pay the outlandish prices of the public parking lots.
Considering the options, the ordinary person goes into circle mode. These are dolts who circle a block in their vehicles, hoping against hope that somehow the stars will be properly aligned and that someone will pull out of a spot just as they come upon it.
It is not a fascinating way to spend time, but the dolts have more time than money, so this is what they do. This is how it is. The parking ticket then becomes the bureaucratic insult to the quality-of-life injury.
Are we becoming clear on this yet, Mrs. Schwartz? You and the other 12 council members remain absolved of this torment, and somehow it just does not feel right in the current climate. You see, there are a whole lot more ticket writers on the streets, and many of them are hiding out in crawl spaces before performing their duties with a passion that is unlike the rest of the city government work force.
Why can't these public employees ever feel a desire to sleep on the job, as they do at the Department of Motor Vehicles? No one would object if most of the ticket writers were too fatigued each day to go about their functions. Not only are they the most dedicated employees in the city, but their capacity to find wrongdoing has been matched with stiffer penalties.
A parking ticket is sometimes just the beginning. There are penalties on top of penalties if you do not pay in due time, and there are the letters that threaten to destroy your credit and turn you into the most useless human being on the planet.
This is the work of our elected leaders, in place to serve our interests.
No, parking is not the most important issue in the world, but it is an issue that rankles the masses because it is omnipresent and reflective of city politicos who appear tone-deaf.
The council members extend their free parking pass while opting to stick it to their constituents. See the disconnect, Mrs. Schwartz? See the issue? You have the sole of your shoes on our throats and we're choking here.
You covet your parking privileges? Fine. We can live with that, if you insist, and you have. Just about anyone with a modicum of power in Washington has some form of parking absolution. That is how power is exercised. Just be honest. Just say, "We're important people and we don't have time to dillydally like the peons in our midst."
But frustration with the query is not acceptable. Please. You want to talk about frustration? You want to talk about the driver who, out of desperation, orchestrates a death-defying U-turn along a two-way street and cuts in front of you to take the parking space that is opening up?
Let's not go there. It is too ugly.

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