- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 10, 2002

City leaders are up to their old revenue-generating tricks again, looking to harried motorists to ease their fiscal concerns.
The city has hired about 170 additional parking-enforcement sleuths in the past six months, ostensibly to increase the city's quality of life, however quality of life is defined by the mayor and the D.C. Council.
An increase in parking fines is a quality-control measure, intended to punish those who just say no to the parking meter's two-hour limit or who can't decipher the convoluted language on the parking signs. The dedicated sleuths are apt to be at the side of a vehicle the minute it has overstayed its legal welcome.
The high level of efficiency within this city service is well-documented, the anamoly of a bureaucracy that suffers from bloat, an absence of ideas and chronic fatigue syndrome.
City leaders have about two political notes: raise taxes, write tickets.
They might as well stand on the main arteries leading into the city, with tin cups in tow. At least that would be more honest than the attempt to dress up the parking racket under the guise of safety.
Council members are not inclined to feel your pain, mostly because they voted to exempt themselves from the ordeal of trying to find a parking space. They are busy people, after all, dealing with matters of grave importance. They don't have the time to play by the same parking rules as you.
Theirs is an interesting political position. As they see it, parking is a never-ending affliction of the city, an unyielding threat that merits their full attention. Yet it is not so serious that it precludes the granting of a free parking pass to their privileged selves.
The contradiction is obvious, though permissible because parking is a game, the one reliable revenue stream of the city. Dealing with parking-enforcement officers who have X-ray vision is merely one of the costs of living or doing business in the city.
The ever-ubiquitous speed cameras are in the same family as parking enforcement, deployed to bilk the citizenry out of its spare change. Mayor Anthony A. Williams recently conceded this point, the unexpected bout of candor induced by a $323 million budget shortfall.
So you are left to operate a vehicle in the city at your financial peril.
Wherever there is a vehicle in the city, the bureaucracy is not too far behind, ready to kick the tires of a vehicle and evaluate its legal worthiness. You probably should be happy the city has refrained, so far anyway, from fining vehicles that have scratches or excessive dirt on them.
A side-view mirror that is slightly askew? That has the feel of a potential violation. An overstuffed glove compartment? That could be considered a violation as well.
In the world according to the city, there is less paperwork with the birth of a child than the purchase of a vehicle, and possibly fewer headaches, literally, down the road. To the city, a vehicle is an item to be taxed, fined and adorned with all the proper stickers until it goes to the great junkyard in the sky.
There is no way to beat the onerous system unless you become a member of the D.C. Council.
This is what you are up against: sneaky cameras at busy intersections, an overzealous foot patrol armed with a ticket pad and pen, a zillion tow-truck operators and parking signs written in a mysterious language.
No, you can't park in this space between the hours of 1 and 3 in the afternoon, except on the first Tuesday of each month and every other Thursday, barring holidays, unless you have a written permission slip from your doctor or verbal approval from the homeless guy who is waving you into the precious spot for a small fee.
Of course, none of this is a guarantee against receiving a ticket for being parked an inch too far from the curb, which, sad to report, comes from personal experience.
Even dying, however inconvenient, does not lead to absolution from the city. The bureaucracy chases the unpaid fines of the dead as well as the living, sometimes for years in the case of the dead. Other than Dudley Moore, who supported the mayor by apparent seance going into the Democratic primary last month, most dead people remain out of touch with the city's crack team of revenue chasers.
The city's revenue-making obsession with the automobile is one of the footnotes that goes with its welcome mat.
The obsession is viewed as a hassle, and for some, it is one of the reasons either to move out of the city or avoid it as much as possible.
That simple fact drains the old city coffers.


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