- The Washington Times - Monday, April 19, 2021

The cost of living in the nation’s capital is on the rise, whether you want it to or not.

Why? The cost of the pandemic is reaping much of the blame. Like most big cities, the District was shuffling personnel and agreements involving public, private and public-private ventures.

Some changes were small but still involved financial consequences — propane tanks and tents for bars and eateries, and free food for all. Taxpayers also were tapped to cover the costs of seemingly endless protests and riots. And every time the mayor jumped before the cameras to give thanks to the Biden administration and credit to the Democrats for offering the public trough to cover those trillion-dollar stimulus bills, AOC led a cheer. She knew full well that higher fees and taxes were on their way. Oh joy.

In the District, residents will be hit in June and in July — courtesy of the D.C. legislature.

The opportunity came early last fall, soon after the end of fiscal 2020. The D.C. Council gave the mayor the authority to work with Virginia and Maryland on driving and parking infractions, including the dreaded residential parking permit program. The program is a big dread for motorists who park in front of their own homes and have to get a permit to do so.

Well, here’s the rub. It’s not that residents don’t want to pay the annual $35 tax — er, fee. They are using public land. The problem is that homeowners and residents are paying their share, including property taxes and public utilities costs for the convenience, while scofflaws, residents of nearby states and out-of-state workers are getting off scot-free.

Yet come June 1, D.C. residents will have to pay higher new taxes — $50 for one vehicle, $75 for a second, $100 for a third vehicle and $150 for additional vehicles.

That’s a problem, considering construction workers and vendors, for example, illegally park all day and overstay their welcome at meters and handicap-designated parking spaces.

Frequent and infrequent motorists utilize parking spots in residential neighborhoods so they don’t have to feed meters, and while such motorists from Maryland or Virginia may be fueling the overall D.C. economy by dining in the city, there’s no reciprocity agreement that mandates they pay for parking tickets and such.

In fact, last fall when the council granted the mayor negotiating authority with Virginia and Maryland, news reports said motorists in those two states owed the District more than $373 million in fines for outstanding parking and traffic citations.

That’s a considerable amount of money, especially when you consider two facts: One, the mayor and other Democrats at City Hall keep pushing affordable housing projects that don’t include parking, and two, the number of vehicles in D.C. with Virginia in tags has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years.

And, no, COVID-19 was not on their radar screens.

The Virginia tag dilemma began several years ago. The mayor should first talk to Gov. Ralph Nortam and then work with housing and transportation planners to catch up with reality. What’s the point of building all this affordable housing if residents cannot afford to park near their own or grandma’s home?

At this juncture, for sure, city leaders and planners should be reconsidering parking for new and relocated residents of affordable housing while the Biden infrastructure plan is still fresh at the top of the to-do list.

Tight urban areas have been anti-motorist since Bush 43 was in office. But new and newly-renovated affordable housing and post-pandemic normalcy might even lead those “I don’t need a car” city dwellers reimaging their environs.

As for the higher costs of living, Democrats will consider one of two things: either raise property taxes or push for higher gas taxes. That’s how they roll.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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