- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 17, 2005

We’re starting with the facts of the Washington Nationals’ opening day:

Residents who live near RFK Stadium have to get special permission to park near their own homes.

The city is paying overtime to ticket writers and tow-truck operators when the Nationals play at home.

The city issues $30 tickets for parking violators, but offers violators a “courtesy tow.”

The tally for these overzealous parking rules: $350,000 (for now).

One of the ironies amid the baseball-is-back-in-Washington hoopla is the high price D.C. taxpayers are paying so that 40,000 or so people can indulge themselves in America’s pastime.

Our particular displeasure is with parking. We stand on the side of homeowners and other taxpayers who live near RFK Stadium. Many of them, merely because of their proximity to the stadium-armory complex, have to pay the city $15 a year for a residential parking permit just so they can park near their front door. The required permit has origins in a de facto commuter tax. That is, the city established the residential parking permit because it cannot tax commuters who work in the District and live elsewhere. In its initial stages, enforcers mostly punished Marylanders, Virginians and other nonresidents who parked for hours on neighborhood streets. While enforcers no longer discriminate, the parking permits have essentially become a progressive parking tax on D.C. residents, while the panoply of parking and driving policies have become a cash cow for city coffers.

In the case of parking on game days, the parking bureaucrats described themselves as easing the traffic burden by requiring residents who live near RFK to get yet another special parking permit. Of course, the burden remains on the D.C. residents to get the permit. Not all bought in to the so-called compromise. Reporter Matthew Cella told readers on Friday that Vincent Smalls was standing on his front porch as a tow truck drove by: ” ‘Just let them tow my car,’ he said as the tow truck passed. Mr. Smalls did not have a permit on his car.”

And why should he? Mr. Smalls duly paid to have his car registered and inspected. Why should he have to dig into his wallet again to park in front of his own home?

Soon, the excitement of the baseball’s return to Washington will quiet and the true price of luring major leaguers to the city will emerge. Then, if not sooner, the folks in City Hall need to sit down and ask all the Vincent Smalls who live near RFK an important question: Are the parking policies good neighbors?

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