- The Washington Times - Monday, March 20, 2006

Every school day, teachers in Columbia Heights leave their classrooms every two hours to move their cars because they cannot get special parking permits from city authorities.

“It’s been an issue for a while,” says Sharon L. Bovell, principal of Harriet Tubman Elementary School. “We’ve had some teachers get tickets.”

About a dozen teachers at Harriet Tubman have to leave school each day because the school’s parking lot isn’t big enough to hold all of their vehicles, Miss Bovell says.

George Telzrow, a social studies teacher at Cardozo High School in Columbia Heights, says the lack of available parking has forced many school employees to park near the end zone of the school’s football field.

“All things considered, that’s not ideal because I think the cars are damaging the running track,” he says.

Mr. Telzrow, who commutes from Alexandria, says he sometimes parks in the neighborhood near Cardozo, intending to move his car after two hours because of restrictions.

Usually, however, he gets too caught up in his work and forgets. “I walk back out wondering if I’ve got a ticket,” he says.

Parking looms as a problem at other schools in Columbia Heights, says Alex Hogan, a advisory neighborhood commissioner in Ward 1.

He has heard complaints that some teachers have to leave their schools during the day to avoid tickets, or else they have to park as many as five blocks away, Mr. Hogan says.

“This has been a problem for about a year now,” says Mr. Hogan, who became aware of the issue as a member of the education committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1A.

“It’s a huge problem, it’s killing the teachers,” says D.C. Council member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat whose jurisdiction includes Columbia Heights. “It wasn’t always a problem. It used to be that they could park there all day because nobody was ticketing in these neighborhoods. But now we’ve got a lot of people ticketing out there.”

Not everybody thinks giving teachers parking permits is a good idea, though.

Raymond J. Kukulski, who served on a special D.C. government task force that issued a report on the city’s parking problems in 2003, says granting street parking permits to teachers would make it more difficult for residents, who already face parking shortages, to find parking spots.

“Where do you stop?” Mr. Kukulski asks. “There are so many different needs. There are home health care workers, housekeepers, people to fix your boiler. If you start giving everybody passes, then there would be no place for anybody else to park.

“As valuable as these teachers are, are they any different from other employees?” he asks. “It’s a very difficult problem. Where do you draw the line?”

City officials have said there are 175,000 more vehicles than parking spaces in the District on any given day.

Mr. Kukulski says better enforcement of illegal parking would free up spaces in neighborhoods.

Mr. Graham says he plans to approach community groups to get their input on starting a pilot program for allowing teachers special permits for daytime parking.

“Assuming we have good community engagement, we have ample daytime parking, so let’s let the teachers use it,” Mr. Graham says.

Bill Rice, a spokesman for the D.C. Department of Transportation, says officials are aware of proposals to give teachers special parking permits.

But he said the District generally regulates parking only for residency, time of day and special considerations for the physically handicapped.

The move to grant special parking permits is not unheard of in the District.

D.C. Council members exempted themselves from some parking regulations in July 2002, giving themselves the freedom to not feed parking meters and the ability to park in bus zones, near intersections and at building entrances.

Mr. Hogan says the ANC and others have called on Mr. Graham to ask city transportation officials to arrange for special parking permits for teachers.

Mr. Graham, who is serving as an election monitor in El Salvador this week, was unavailable for comment yesterday.

The District reaps millions of dollars each year in revenue from its parking meters.

The city issued nearly $70 million in parking tickets last year, an increase for the fifth year in a row.

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