- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Community, business and religious groups yesterday complained to a D.C. Council committee that their interests were not considered by a mayoral task force dedicated to solving the parking problems in the District.

In a 30-page report released last month, the task force recommended a series of short- and long-term parking reforms aimed at maximizing the use of the District’s 4,000 parking spaces and balancing the needs of residents, visitors, commuters and consumers.

The changes would need to be made through legislation and regulation.

D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican and chairman of the Committee on Public Works and the Environment, praised the report but said repeatedly that more aggressive enforcement of existing parking regulations would solve many of the problems identified.

“I think that enforcement is key,” she said. “We can write all the laws in the world, but if they aren’t enforced they are meaningless.”

Grace Bateman of the Georgetown Business and Professional Association said the task force sought little input from businesses, which say they stand to suffer from even the smallest changes to parking laws.

“We’re very concerned that business interests are not clearly reflected in the work of the task force or the task force report,” she said.

George Idelson, president of the Cleveland Park Citizens Association, said extending the amount of time visitors can park in residential areas beyond the current two hours will make it harder for residents to park near their homes.

The Rev. Melvin Brown, pastor of the Greater New Hope Baptist Church on H Street NW, said churchgoers are being ticketed because parking is so scarce for Sunday services.

“It’s a nondenominational problem,” Mr. Brown said. “The city seems to be doing nothing in regard to churches but restrictions.”

The council voted in July 2002 to exempt itself from its own parking regulations.

The measure, coming after a year in which traffic-enforcement officers had cracked down on illegally parked council members’ cars, was sponsored by Mrs. Schwartz and supported by council members Kevin Chavous, Jack Evans, Sandra Allen, Adrian Fenty, David Catania, Jim Graham, Harold Brazil, Vincent Orange and Linda W. Cropp. Voting against it were Phil Mendelson, Kathy Patterson and Sharon Ambrose.

The exemption, approved but criticized at the time by Mayor Anthony A. Williams, a Democrat, extended to council members the same parking privileges enjoyed by members of Congress — including the freedom to park in bus zones, in restricted spaces near intersections, at building entrances and on restricted residential streets. It also freed council members from having to put money into parking meters.

Mrs. Schwartz also said yesterday she would oppose a recommendation to double fines for parking at an expired meter from $25 to $50.

“Come back with another number,” Mrs. Schwartz told Dan Tangherlini, the head of the city’s transportation department. “In case you hadn’t realized it, $50 just isn’t going to fly.”

Mr. Tangherlini said he supported doubling the fine because he didn’t think the $25 fine carried enough deterrent value since parking for a day in a garage costs between $15 and $18.

Asked if she would introduce legislation repealing a law that exempts council members from parking tickets, Mrs. Schwartz said only, “No.”

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