- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 25, 2002

The D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles is infamous for bureaucratic nightmares, especially those involving parking tickets and related fines. Overzealous enforcement, tickets issued to the wrong person and wrong vehicle (as when a license plate is stolen), and fines that the city continues to insist haven't been paid when there's proof to the contrary it's all part of the game.
Attempting to reason with the often-insouciant personnel at the DMV has always been an added challenge, but matters were made infinitely worse when the DMV's new computer system went on line this spring. After having waited in line sometimes for many hours supplicants by the score learned that the DMV's new computer would not permit them to get their driver's licenses and non-driver's ID cards renewed, obtain a vehicle registration, or conduct other essential business with the city until and unless all the fines and penalties (some dating back to the Reagan years) had been paid off per the belching of the computer. It didn't matter if the fines and attendant penalties were in error. Only wads of hard-earned cash would placate the DMV's extortionate computer, aptly named Destiny.
Understandably, all of this created quite an uproar that pretty much forced a reluctant Mayor Anthony Williams and the equally reluctant D.C. Council to step in last week and announce a partial amnesty. City officials, even elected ones, live in a world of their own and never give up their lust for cash taken from the hides of their constituents. The plans call for the DMV to waive penalties and late fees for parking tickets issued prior to 1997. "There is no single city function for our citizens that affects their lives more on a day-to-day basis than the DMV," Mr. Williams said. And he is absolutely right.
However, the original fines themselves have not been rescinded even those dating back more than two decades notwithstanding revelations that the city overcollected almost $18 million between 1981 and 1997. If Destiny says you owe a fine dating back to 1984, you'll still have to pay up. So the amnesty is a partial solution at best, because it does not address the very real problem of fines being issued improperly, to the wrong people, and of sloppy record-keeping after the fact. (Some people would call it extortion.) Since last November alone, the city by its own admission has collected $860,000 in excess fines. Refunds are in the works (sans interest, of course), but that's only an after-the-fact semi-fix. The underlying problems with the D.C. DMV remain: overzealous enforcement and regulatory stumbling blocks designed to raise revenue.
The District ought to be embarrassed no, shamed by its punitive and Third World-like parking enforcement apparatus and take immediate steps to fix the inherent problems rather than create new ones for motorists.


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