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EDITORIAL: Parking meter scam

Robin Hood rides to rescue the innocent motorist

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New Hampshire residents take the "Live Free or Die" slogan on their license plates seriously. Municipal governments use every shady trick to squeeze revenue from the citizenry, but Hampshiremen are fighting back. The bureaucrats are in enough lather to shave their whiskers.

Good Samaritans in the city of Keene, styling themselves as "Robin Hood and his Merry Men," are gallantly topping off parking meters before they expire, ensuring their neighbors will be spared an expensive and unnecessary ticket.

Not unlike the Sheriff of Nottingham, Keene oppresses the locals with heavy taxation imposed by the meter maid, the modern tax collector. Those saved by the merry band of meter-feeders receive a note on their windshield encouraging more good deeds. "We saved you from the king's tariffs," says the note. "Please consider paying it forward." An address is provided for voluntary donations to help promote the effort.

The Robin Hooders have spared locals paying nearly 4,000 tickets, which so infuriated the city that it actually filed a lawsuit against the Good Samaritans, claiming something called meter-maid intimidation. The suit identifies six Robin Hooders by name and demands each be barred from coming within 50 feet of a "parking enforcement officer" — which would make it difficult to feed meters.

The lawsuit claims the group "regularly, repeatedly and intentionally taunted, interfered with, harassed, and intimidated" the officers, and insisted the meter maids were offended by being videotaped at work.

There's evidence to the contrary, as the group posts videos of its activities on YouTube. Keene's police department appears to have no problem with what's going on, as seen in a cordial exchange last year. "Keep a respectful distance," Sgt. Jason Short told a Robin Hooder. "It's not illegal to throw quarters in the meter ... . I was happy I rolled in the other day, and there was an hour on the meter."

It's obvious that the real issue isn't harassment. It's cash. Fines for meter violations have plummeted, and a little intimidation from municipal lawyers might boost revenue.

Like the original band of the merry in Sherwood Forest, the Merry Men of Keene are a self-governing band taking on an overtaxing government — a political establishment that shows itself as tyrannical when challenged.

We have seen other governments take unconstitutional steps to pad their bottom line, such as seizing property from citizens to give it to developers promising to build a new shopping center. The pursuit of new things to tax is insatiable. Our friends in New Hampshire have found a way to alleviate some of the pressure on our wallets — or at least until a judge has his say.

In the nation's capital, the coin-fed meter is becoming a thing of the past, replaced by "pay and display" meters, popular with municipal bureaucrats because the new meters can't be fed more than once. Certain two-hour meters won't take quarters beyond the single hour showing on the meter, and motorists keep feeding quarters, particularly at night when the meter is difficult to read, thinking they have the posted two hours. They return to find a ticket on the windshield. Deliberate misrepresentation? Would the D.C. government do that?

The Washington Times

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

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