- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 20, 2002

They are the best employees in the city, the light in the public life of Mayor Anthony A. Williams.

The city's parking-enforcement officers never miss a day of work. They never sleep on the job, the principal mission of those with the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles. They never come down with carpal tunnel syndrome from writing so many tickets.

These devoted city employees merely report to work each day, warm up their itchy writing fingers and pursue all the scofflaws in the city with unyielding purpose. They do not receive enough credit, especially in a city that routinely employs the fatigued, the incompetent and fiction writers.

The city discriminates against no one.

The city's parking-enforcement officers do not ask to be celebrated. They are old school in that regard. They have a job to do, and they do it very well. No ceremony in their honor is necessary. Hold the applause. You're making them blush.

Amazing as it is, these unsung public servants accomplish so much with only a pen, paper and a pair of strong eyes.

Nothing deters them, not even the foulest weather conditions. Wind, hail, lightning, sheets of rain. They laugh in Mother Nature's face and push ahead in search of the next illegally parked vehicle.

Their single-mindedness is the stuff of legend in the city, their eye for detail uncanny. They can spot from a block away with both eyes closed a car that is parked too far from the curb. They seem to have a sixth sense about it. It is as if they can feel it in their bones. You can't teach this stuff to anyone.

Just imagine if the sleepyheads with the DMV worked in parking enforcement. You never would receive a parking ticket, the city would be broke, and Congress would be forced to stick out its tin cup.

Fortunately, Mayor Williams and the D.C. Council have been spared this embarrassment. Parking revenue is up, parking space is down, and the post-September 11 world is a safer place.

The city has more than doubled its band of parking-enforcement officers, from 75 to 165, figuring the more tickets the merrier. City officials can't live on tax increases and speed cameras alone.

Not to be insensitive, the city also has cracked down on those seeking handicapped parking privileges. Most people used to be able to receive a handicapped plate or tag by showing they had a sore throat and runny nose. Now the city requires a person to run 40 yards, bench press 250 pounds and jump through hoops.

Hard as it is, the city lives with a financially lucrative equation, with an estimated 800,000 vehicles trying to squeeze into 250,000 curbside parking spaces each workday. The math does not work. That leaves the parking-enforcement sleuths to sort it all out.

Each one writes about 19,000 tickets a year, which is a lot of paperwork, some of which contributes to the long lines at the DMV's chronic fatigue centers.

What's the good mayor to do, being pulled as he is in a zillion directions?

Outgoing D.C. Fire Chief Ronnie Few is still hanging around, packing up all his college diplomas; the upside-down Stars and Stripes flying atop the D.C. Housing Authority is in error; the DMV's Destiny computer system has a powerful headache; and the rodent population is feeling empowered after a mild winter.

Yet amid all the dysfunction is the lonely parking-enforcement officer, dutifully writing away, generating a nice increase in revenue for the city. These sidewalk beacons don't have bad days. They don't take coffee breaks. They skip lunch. They work hurt. They work sick. They work overtime out of principle.

Yet, they are not paid a percentage of each ticket, instead earning between $21,000 and $27,000 a year.

Not to start anything, but it seems as if they could make a strong case for a pay increase.

Go on strike. We would not object.


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