The backlash is building against Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's (D) proposal to use increased parking fees and traffic tickets to help close the city's budget shortfall, including raising the cost to park at some meters to $3 an hour.
At a news conference this morning, the leaders of AAA Mid-Atlantic decried Fenty's proposal, accusing him of viewing motorists who travel through the District as an "ATM cash machine."
According to an analysis by AAA, Fenty's proposed fiscal year 2011 budget would increase the number of photo radar tickets by nearly nearly one-fourth to generate an extra $16 million. The budget would also increase the fines on 71 moving violations to raise an estimated $28 million. But the loudest outcry stems from Fenty's proposal to increase "premium" on-street metered parking spots to $3 an hour, which would require motorists to put a quarter in the meter every 5 minutes.
The new $3 an hour parking rates would apply to about 140 areas, according to budget documents. The proposed increase follows last year's decision to raise parking meter rates from $1 to $2 an hour in well-trafficked corridors. The city also extended meters well into the evening and on Saturdays in many areas.
"District residents are absolutely upset," said Kelvin J. Robinson, an ANC commissioner in Ward 6 who attended AAA's press conference.
Douglas Sloan, another ANC commissioner, has begun circulating a resolution among the ANC's calling for asking the council to block Fenty's proposal.
"The extension of [meter] hours to 10 p.m. on weeknights and on Saturday's we feel is an unfair burden," Sloan said. "I will take a 2-cent tax on anything before I will take a $50 or $60 ticket for parking in a residential area at night."
Several council members said today they, too, are worried about Fenty's proposal. Specifically, many restaurant owners are complaining that their customers are being forced to continually run out onto the streets at night to feed their meter.
There are signs that Fenty is also having second thoughts about his proposal. While testifying before the council in support of his budget on Monday, Fenty said acknowledged the "outcry" over his proposal.
"Probably, to be honest with you, we're going to have to look at going back or reducing," Fenty said.
If Fenty and council members do not scrap the proposed fee increases, AAA officials hinted they would make it an issue in this year's campaigns for mayor and D.C. Council..
"There is nothing like a good ol' fashioned election in November to change minds," said Mahlon G. Lon Anderson, director of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic.