- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 18, 2006

D.C. officials are forever obsessed with the money-making capacity of the automobile.

They see an automobile as a fee-packing item that stuffs the coffers of the bloated bureaucracy.

It takes multiple graduate degrees to comprehend all the rules and regulations of automobile ownership in the District, mostly because officials are always crafting legislation intended to wring a few more dollars from the ubiquitous symbol of mobility.

The latest proposal of Mayor Anthony A. Williams follows that tired spirit. He is endeavoring to limit residential parking permits to three a household, which would be fine if so many overpriced homes were not stuffed with 10 roommates who split the rent.

The city’s real estate market has skyrocketed under the stewardship of Mr. Williams, and rents have risen as well. Those who have been shut out of the housing market have had no choice but to turn all too many single-family homes into college-style barracks.

This is not because extending your college years into your late 20s and early 30s is all that enjoyable. This is because housing costs are beyond the reach of many young adults just starting their professional careers.

Mr. Williams has a funny way of showing his support to those who elect to live in the urban environment.

After all, it is Mr. Williams who set out the welcome mat in the hope of one day increasing the city’s population by 100,000, however far-fetched the hope is, given the deplorable state of the public schools, the burdensome tax rates and the sinking feeling that city officials are conditioned to find one more entry point to your wallet.

D.C. officials, inadvertent or not, have driven out middle-class families and created a stark social divide of the haves and have-nots.

The three-car-per-household limit is just one more piece of legislation that is apt to result in group-house dwellers throwing up their hands in fatigue and making the 15-minute drive across the Potomac River in search of a less -onvoluted system.

As always, the District’s bureaucracy remains incredibly competent in one principal area: fining an automobile that is in violation of a parking law, a residential-sticker law or an out-of-state license law.

An out-of-state granny visiting a child in the city learns quickly that her automobile might as well be swathed in flashing neon lights, so effective is the parking-enforcement brigade at uncovering her failures to obey the law.

This is the game of the city, and it is one that requires residents to follow the tedious bureaucratic steps if visitors are expected. Otherwise, you can be certain the visitors will be ensnared in the city’s parking-enforcement racket.

The part-time D.C. Council members, of course, are absolved of so much of the parking nonsense, because the part-time nature of their duties demands that they be on the job 24/7. Or so the self-serving thinking goes.

There are only so many curbside parking spaces in the city, so the city’s plan is to sell 48 spaces to two short-term car-sharing companies, raise the cost of the residential parking permits and limit each household to three apiece.

That is just fine if you are living in a condo with an underground parking garage or you have parking available on your property.

That is not so fine if you are one of 10 adults squeezed into a row house, and your quality of life already is suffering because your bedroom is the size of a closet, and now you are drawing straws with your roommates to see who gets to keep their cars.

Welcome to the nation’s capital? No. Welcome to the city of vehicular obtuseness.

The city fines, photographs, boots, tows and stalks vehicles with creepy efficiency.

Then officials scratch their heads with each new census that reveals a loss of population in the city.

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