Mayor Postpones Church Parking Crackdown
Monday, April 24, 2006
Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) has backed off a planned crackdown on double-parking around city churches, instead imposing a moratorium on enforcement until a task force recommends ways to end squabbles between churches and their neighbors, the mayor's office confirmed yesterday.
The moratorium was announced yesterday at a lively Logan Circle rally by the chairman of the mayor's interfaith council, Bishop Michael Kelsey of New Samaritan Baptist Church. He joined dozens of area clergy and hundreds of parishioners, many in their Sunday best, who came out to demonstrate against a parking crackdown. The Williams administration had announced in March that city police would begin ticketing illegally parked cars in May.
The issue has become a contest fraught with racial and class issues, pitting the city's 600 congregations against homeowners, many of them new to the city, who want the city's parking laws enforced.
Every Sunday, large numbers of worshipers descend on neighborhoods around Logan Circle, as well as areas from Capitol Hill to Shaw, parking in front of hydrants or walkways or hemming in other cars by double-parking. Police acknowledge that for years they have basically overlooked the practice, particularly when there is no safety violation. But complaints from residents in Logan Circle have placed the issue high on the agenda of the city's political leaders.
"We want to do something the gentrifiers don't want us to do: Join together," Lorraine C. Miller, president of the D.C. chapter of the NAACP, told the churchgoers who gathered around the statue of Civil War Gen. Thomas A. Logan. Members of different congregations cheered when their pastors took their turn at the microphone.
Miller said the parking issue is the "tip of the iceberg of discontent on how decisions are made."
The Rev. Canon William Barnwell of Washington National Cathedral told the crowd that cracking down on Sunday parking violations would "kill or deeply wound many of our congregations." And he said the city could turn into a "one-class, one-race, gated community that shuts people out rather than letting them in."
Many of the speakers said places of worship have long helped their immediate communities through aid for the needy, day care and other services.
Parking accommodations for a few hours once a week should not be an issue, they said.
D.C. Council Chairman and mayoral candidate Linda W. Cropp (D) told the crowd that she stood with city churches who have long "fed the hungry and clothed the naked."
Afterward, she praised the mayor's plans to form a task force. She said that she and Williams spoke last week about the need to solve the problem through dialogue and that ideas such as using two middle lanes of wide streets for angle parking should be considered.
She said the task force "should try to figure out how to work this out."
Mayoral candidate Michael A. Brown (D) also worked the crowd, handing out a plan that he said would encourage valet parking, the use of public transit and other parking accommodations.
Logan Circle resident Todd Lovinger, who has been active in calling for greater enforcement of parking regulations, called the mayor's moratorium announcement "a disgusting cop-out." He said, "Out-of-town parishioners are getting greater rights than D.C. taxpayers."
Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said he first heard about the moratorium at church yesterday, not from the mayor or his staff.
At the rally, Mendelson said the parking issue is a problem that needs to be worked out. "What got me here is that the churches feel unwelcome, and that is wrong," he said.