- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 13, 2006

D.C. Mayor-elect Adrian M. Fenty is seeking to save the public school system, improve public services, reform the bloated bureaucracy and reduce crime, no doubt with the help of his ever-present BlackBerry.

Mr. Fenty probably could ease his workload if he merely took notes in the office of the most efficient branch of the bureaucracy in the city, which, of course, is parking enforcement.

These tireless, eagle-eyed souls do not receive the credit they deserve in their quest to monitor and ticket all manner of parking infractions around the city.

And they do their work with skill, dedication and discipline — three qualities that often are lacking in other areas of government.

You sometimes cannot get a straight answer from a bureaucrat on the phone, assuming you have punched all the proper numbers in order to reach an actual living person.

But you always get a straight answer from a parking-enforcement person, whether the answer involves a meter that has expired, a vehicle that is parked too far from the curb, a vehicle that lacks a zone sticker or a vehicle that is in the way of a street cleaner with the mammoth, spinning brooms that blow dirt, leaves and litter every which way in the name of sanitation.

Mr. Fenty needs to transfer some of that can-do spirit to the eternally plagued public school system, which has been judged a colossal failure the last two generations and seems impervious to even small measures of reform, despite the vast sum of money that is thrown in its direction.

A person who has an itchy writing finger may not be qualified to lead a classroom of students. But the person could do no worse than many of those who supposedly are qualified.

And if the person brought the ticket-writing obsession to teaching, that would be a small step in the right direction.

Mr. Fenty recently toured the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, which is in charge of awarding permits to residents and contractors who are looking to build or renovate residential and commercial properties.

The securing of a permit sometimes leads to a deep mystery, as one homeowner discovered after receiving a permit to erect a fence in her back yard. Her application was approved and rejected by competing voices in the agency, each armed with a plethora of building codes.

The fence possibly exceeded a code that overrode another code by a millimeter, which prompted a thorough examination of other codes, which became code for a big, confusing mess.

The homeowner eventually turned a deaf ear to the yes/no din of the agency with the conviction that an itty-bitty fence eventually would fall through the cracks of the bureaucracy.

That is how things sometimes get done in the city. They get done in spite of the bungling and mixed messages of the city.

You want to build an addition to your home, which only improves the value of it? Go ahead. Pick a number. Get in line. And have fun.

If Mr. Fenty could spread the work ethic of the ticket writers to those who grant building permits, the city would be a center of construction projects in almost no time.

Mr. Fenty is going to find, if he hasn’t already, that his soon-to-be bureaucracy is filled with sufferers of either Lyme disease or chronic fatigue syndrome. He does not need to reform it. He needs to bring in bus loads of doctors to treat the epidemic.

The ticket-writing brigade has no physical impairments, for whatever reasons. This merry band is on the streets at all hours, in all kinds of elements.

Heat? Snow? Rain? None of it matters. They are the sort who walked five miles to school in the snow as children.

They have a mission, which is to “improve public safety, enhance quality of life and spur economic competitiveness by maintaining access to short-term public parking.”

Who knew that a parking ticket could uplift us in such a compelling fashion?

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