- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 30, 2003

This is for the omnipresent parking officer, the unofficial mascot of the nation's capital.
Need a job? Call City Hall.
The mayor's minions will equip you with a pen and a ticket pad and turn you loose on the streets. They are in the process of refining a revenue-generating racket, the ubiquitous parking ticket, the political equivalent of begging by a notice stuck underneath the windshield wiper. They refuse to quit. Same here.
It seems you can't have too many parking officers.
Look at it from the city's point of view. The city is putting people to work. The city is enriching lives. The city can't help it if the revenue from parking tickets rose to $57 million in the past year, up from $45 million in 2001.
This is what happens when people are doing their jobs. This is what happens when the number of ticket writers with the Department of Public Works increases from as few as 70 in 2001 to 168 last year.
These people are good, really good. You never see them coming, usually because they are hiding under a bush or behind a tree or are curled up on a grate pretending to be asleep.
These are merely the ticket writers with Public Works, which is sometimes the least of them. Nearly everyone in the city is authorized to write parking tickets, starting with the police, followed by the rent-a-cops and those who just want to see what it is like.
Some parking officers report that writing a ticket functions almost like an aphrodisiac. A few males say women tend to view them differently after their first tickets. The officers stop to have a beer before going home, ticket pad in tow, and before you know it, there is a line of women clinging to their tales of intrigue.
Him: "You should have seen this one car, honey, with the wheels turned the wrong way, the meter expired and the tires improperly inflated. Wrote that puppy up in 30 seconds."
Her: "You have such powerful writing muscles."
You think it is bad in your part of the city. Check out the crowd of homeless people hanging out on Porter Street in Northwest, only they are not really homeless. They are parking officers in disguise. You can tell by the twitch in their hands and the tic in their eyes after they spot a speck of dirt on the rear license plate of a vehicle, which, perhaps, is a violation of the city's health code.
At the moment, the city's parking experts are working Porter Street with a diligence bordering on obsession. Stay away from Porter Street. That is the word on the street anyway. Porter Street has become the Chernobyl-like section of the city. Parking there is potentially poisonous to your wallet.
You were parked legally? hat is a good one. That is what they all say. The city is doubled over in laughter.
Seriously, you have to feel for the residents of Porter Street and the adjoining arteries. They just want to, you know, get along. But that is impossible. The city is broke, the body of parking officers is growing by the day, and the unofficial motto of the Mayor Anthony A. Williams administration is: "A parking ticket a car keeps the budget-crazy members of Congress away."
More and more victims are becoming wise to the scam, sometimes after receiving a parking ticket because of an arcane law known as general principle, which is: Something about the way the vehicle was parked did not seem right to the officer in charge.
To be fair, all cities are in the business of making a little side money on parking. The trick is not to be obvious. In the case of the District, the ticketing madness has advanced from obvious to outrageous.
The ticket-writing sleuths are almost as dedicated as car-watching professionals. The latter is another burgeoning business. Here's the thing: If you did know better, you could think there were only three occupations in the city: gasbag, ticket writer and car watcher.
You park your car, and the professional watches it.
That about sums it up. Park. Watch.
Here you thought most vehicles prefer to do their business in the privacy of their own parking space.
Not too long ago, parking was a fairly simple procedure. Now you have to worry about all the shifty-eyed ticket writers lurking in alleys and storefronts, a multitude of car-watching professionals and the one-flake emergency routes.
Whew. You are exhausted before you have started.

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