- The Washington Times - Friday, April 25, 2003

Washington's Metropolitan Police Department has launched a new policy to get tough on people parking on D.C. streets with out-of-state license plates. Under the name ROSA, or Registration of Out of State Automobiles, the initiative supposedly is designed to ease parking congestion and force local registration of long-term residents and visitors who keep their cars listed elsewhere to avoid D.C. taxes and regulations. Evidence suggests, however, that ROSA's implementation is an abuse of the legal process to accomplish a cash grab.
Earlier this week, one of our editorial writers found a parking ticket on his windshield after having dinner downtown. A tow request had been issued, though no specific violation had been checked off. An "x" carefully had been marked in the empty space between the boxes for "red meter" and "no parking anytime" infractions, though neither offense had been committed. Signs directly next to the car read, "No standing or parking 7a.m.-9:30 a.m. 4 p.m.-6:30 p.m." and "No parking 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m." The vehicle scheduled to be towed, sporting non-D.C. tags, was parked there at 7:10 p.m.; the ticket was issued at 9:20 p.m. The notice also incorrectly listed the address as 600 Pennsylvania Ave., although the vehicle was parked smack in front of 633.
There were other innocent drivers stuck with unjust parking fines at that spot on that evening during the same hours. Within half a block, at least four other vehicles, all with out-of-state license plates (Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia and Virginia), were issued parking citations although all were in legitimate spaces, according to the signs posted there by the city. Tellingly, sitting among all the ticketed cars was a ticketless Porsche; it had D.C. plates. Two nights later, we drove by the same block and saw more cars with out-of-state plates that had parking tickets despite being in legal parking spaces.
At least two of the four others known to be ticketed on the first night didn't have a violation marked on their tickets. In theory, this would seem to open the possibility of getting off on a technicality. But as one of the victims put it to us, it's impossible to win in this situation given the time and inconvenience of appearing at a hearing for a mythical infraction. "Is it really worth it to go in and waste a morning or a whole day at some traffic court to get out of a $40 ticket?" the woman, who is staffer for a Democratic senator, exclaimed. "I'm too busy for that." We bet this cost-benefit analysis is exactly what the D.C. government which collected $62.3 million from tickets in 2002 is banking on.
The crooked parking sting hardly can help local businesses. As one resident of suburban Virginia who was illegitimately ticketed this week said: "And they wonder why it's hard to get people to come downtown at night. It's not worth it if you're going to get a parking penalty every time you want to have dinner." The neighborhood includes tony restaurants such as the Capitol Grille and Signatures. D.C. Council initiatives to encourage downtown commerce through a moratorium on parking tickets have obviously failed.


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