- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 12, 2002

The bureaucrats in the city are working extra hard to resolve the inefficiency of the D.C. Bureau of Traffic Adjudication.
It is the least the glorified panhandlers could do.
Their ineptness is the insult that goes with the ticket, speeding or parking. Not even the dead are spared, some too dead to respond either by telephone or in person.
Of course, the dead have a long shelf life in Washington, plus a multidimensional one, considering Dudley Moore's well-chronicled support of Mayor Anthony A. Williams in the last election. Being dead, like being ignorant of the law, is no excuse to ignore electoral duties and collection notices.
The unofficial surcharge is the revenue-generating industry of the cash-strapped city, the fine print underneath the "Welcome to" signpost, which reads: "Welcome to Washington Will write tickets for food." The joke is on residents of the city, commuters and the lost, diplomats excluded.
A vehicle-records specialist asks: "Is any human working for the DMV?"
That is a fair enough question, if sleeping on the job qualifies as working.
The necessity of a vehicle-records specialist is an indictment of the system itself. The purpose of the vehicle-records specialist is to fight City Hall in your place, a time-consuming process best managed with a 24-hour supply of rations, a sleeping bag and a change of clean clothes. You could die waiting.
The city is apt to blame the Dallas-based Affiliated Computer Services, the camera-happy outfit that oversees the glamour traffic photos. One clerk with the company recently lowered the speed limit on a certain artery of the city, which came as a shock to motorists and police officers alike. This unusual piece of legislation resulted in a higher yield of speeding tickets, red faces all around the city and a promise to reimburse the victims one of these decades.
The city does not part with its ill-gained income easily. You could revisit the details involving overpaid parking tickets. The city believes in the axiom: "Finders keepers, losers weepers."
The mayor and his minions issue no apologies, just muddled explanations, depending on the day. Some days, they are in it to save lives. Other days, they are in it to fill city coffers. You pay either way. As a bonus, there is no guarantee your payment will be duly recorded.
Hardly a week passes without news of another ingenious assault on the citizenry's pocketbooks and digestive functions. The automobile has become the city's principal means of survival, just after the congressional gasbags on Capitol Hill.
The pursuit is expected to become even more lucrative in the months ahead, the product of a one-two punch: more cameras and a higher number of itchy writing fingers. How did preceding generations survive without the kindly help of all-knowing Big Brother, not to mention the brigade of highly personable tow-truck operators?
The daily bumper-to-bumper procession comes with an additional burden. What should you do if a light turns red while you are trapped in the middle of an intersection? Do you stay put and block traffic? Or do you inch ahead and trigger the camera, just after fixing your hair, brushing your teeth and smiling? The decision is tricky, and potentially costly, especially with a clerk in Dallas interpreting our traffic laws. The clerk probably is a fan of the Cowboys.
Anyway, the holiday season is liable to bring another batch of greetings from the LDC Collection Systems, along with the spirited reminder that your account has been referred to a national credit agency, which means it goes on your permanent credit report, not unlike the bad grade in chemistry back in high school.
Wherever you go, whatever you do, it inevitably leads back to the permanent record. You can run, but you can't hide from your permanent record.
As LDC Collection Systems puts it: "Negative credit reporting can have an adverse effect on your ability to secure credit for consumer loans, mortgages, credit cards and rental or lease agreements."
Negative credit reporting also has been shown to contribute to the greenhouse effect.
All that hot air is bad for the environment.
As it is, the city's obsession with the automobile is unseemly, and the system is a mess to boot.
The word boot is applicable. An orange boot, after all, is the city's idea of a must-have accessory item on a vehicle.
This is a bureaucracy for the people, by the people and of the people. It endeavors to serve the living as well as the dead.

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