Thursday, January 19, 2006

Members of the D.C. Council yesterday criticized Mayor Anthony A. Williams for what they called uncreative and eleventh-hour legislation that would cap the number of cars allotted per household at three and raise residential parking permit fees.

“Good news [is] that there finally has been a parking study done, and bad news is that it has, quite frankly, taken almost the duration of the Williams administration to come up with some policy recommendation and translate them into legislation,” said council member Kathy Patterson, Ward 3 Democrat. “The mayor is finally addressing the issue, which is something that has needed to be done for a long time.”

“When I heard that the mayor had come forward with a new parking bill, I thought ‘Ah-ha, now we get to experience creativity,’” said council member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat. “You know this is the last year of the Williams administration, and this will be the combined … eight years of experience. But I’ve got to say what’s lacking here is something that’s dynamic and creative and out of the box.”

The public round table was held as part of the Committee on Public Works and the Environment and was chaired by Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican. Also in attendance were about 100 residents and several District Department of Transportation officials.

Mrs. Schwartz’s opening statement included a more-than-five-minute speech berating The Washington Times for reminding readers that she sponsored legislation in 2002 exempting D.C. council members from parking regulations when on official business, generously defined.

Citizens criticized the new proposed legislation as punishing law-abiding D.C. residents while not focusing on the real problems — commuters and residents with out-of-state tags.

“Why are you going to punish me?” said Clyde Howard, 71, a D.C. resident who lives in the Shaw neighborhood where parking is at a premium. “I’m a tax-paying citizen.”

The new rules would increase residential parking permit fees per household from $15 each to $25 for one, $50 for a second and $100 for a third. The fees have been raised $5 since 1991.

Some said the problem is overuse of curbside spaces by residents with out-of-state tags. These people, many said, use guest-parking permits to avoid paying the higher insurance premiums associated with registering their cars in the District.

Council member Kwame R. Brown, at-large Democrat, agreed.

“It’s not the fact that too many D.C. people have too many cars. It’s not like you’re seeing a lot of D.C. tags and that’s why [you] can’t find a parking space,” he said, reading from a letter written to him by a constituent. “She said when I come home late at night … she’s seeing out-of-state tags. How does this bill address that?”

Mrs. Patterson said the proposed legislation is punishing D.C. residents while not addressing commuters, who bring in thousands of extra cars each day.

“I don’t particularly like the mayor’s proposal,” she said. “I think it’s got a long way to go. It penalizes residents who already pay taxes for roads. We need to think of a way to advantage D.C. residents and penalize commuters.”

Dan Tangherlini, outgoing director of the District Department of Transportation, said the legislation is a culmination of several years of study. He said Mr. Williams should be thanked for addressing the issue at all.

“The mayor deserves some credit for stepping in on the line of fire of this issue,” he said. “The easy thing to do is what’s been happening for the last 30 years, which is nothing. He has taken on this issue, and it’s a complicated issue. You are talking about too much demand for too limited a supply. And it’s a very difficult issue, it’s a complex one, and we’ll never get it exactly right. And that’s why the job is interesting, I guess.”

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