- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 22, 2002

Officials with the most aggravating of D.C. agencies, the Department of Public Works (better known as the Department of Public Nuisance) and the Department of Motor Vehicles (aka the Department of Motor Victims) have teamed up to make life even more miserable for D.C. motorists. They have decided to triple the number of ticket-writers prowling the streets and just in time for the city's busiest tourism seasons. Of course, this also gives residents plenty of time for their complaints to pour in to the office of Mayor Anthony Williams, who is seeking re-election. You have to wonder whether Mr. Williams really expects us to believe that this assault is in the name of public safety, when, in fact, doling out tickets is the city's prized money-maker.

In fiscal 2001, motorists plunked $12.5 million in coins into the city's parking-meter coffers. Parking ticket-writers, meanwhile, wrote 1.5 million tickets, or about 19,000 a piece. City officials said they hope to rake in at least $15 million more this year. If each of the 260 or so ticket-writers produce as many as their 79 counterparts did last year, the city stands to gain at least $97 million in fines. That would be in addition to the big bucks raked in by tickets issued by police and issued by photo-radar. See, D.C. officials stood in line on Capitol Hill like other authorities around the nation when the feds began doling out emergency funds to beef up security in light of September 11. The District wants to spend some of its emergency funds on more cameras to help nab speeders and red-light runners.

Now, wouldn't you think D.C. police who have one of the lowest homicide closure rates in the nation have more important things to do? Shouldn't they be preventing rapes and murders, robberies and burglaries? Isn't preventing those violent crimes more important than ticketing a motorist for blocking an intersection? Also important is the city's image. On the one hand, D.C. officials have been begging residents and tourists to give their patronage all the city has to offer including its enticing museums and restaurants. On the other hand, the mayor, it seems, would rather lose those dollars in favor of ratcheting up the costs of driving in the city.

Make no mistake. The crackdown on parking is no coincidence. The city substantially raised fines in 2000 and then deliberately began beefing up its ticket-writing forces all in the name of money. In fact, only a few years ago, D.C. officials denied that a ticket-quota system even existed. Now, in this election year, we're back to more of the same shenanigans that preceded the Williams administration. Surely he knows that voters expect more of his administration come judgment, er, election day.

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