Ticket Tussle

Monday, June 1, 2009

OTHERWISE LAW-ABIDING citizens sometimes seem to turn into scofflaw sympathizers when it comes to driving and parking their vehicles. How dare the District step up its parking ticket enforcement! The nerve of Maryland to allow more speed cameras! Our editorial advice, to channel D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), is simple: Follow the law. Yes, you're entitled to be skeptical when politicians tell you that their only concern is for public safety and the extra revenue never crossed their minds. But, whatever the mix of motivations, enforcement is a boon for public order and safety.

The Post's Tim Craig recently reported that the District, already a prolific issuer of tickets, is taking measures to expand parking enforcement. City officials plan to hire more parking enforcement officers and add cameras to street sweepers that would photograph vehicles that haven't been moved for street cleaning, a violation that would result in a $30 fine. It's estimated that the additional parking enforcement officers will bring in $12.6 million annually; the street sweeper cameras are projected to issue 237,000 more tickets in fiscal 2010, yielding roughly $7.1 million in revenue. This comes after the Maryland General Assembly approved legislation to authorize speed cameras in work zones and near schools.

Predictably, these measures have brought out the Big Brother fearmongers and drawn the ire of some motorists. For example, The Post's John Wagner reported, a grass-roots group is gathering signatures in Maryland to put the speed camera measure before voters next year. Critics say that officials from both the District and Maryland are making a revenue grab to plug budget holes. They add that D.C. officials are levying an implicit commuter tax that will discourage tourists and workers from driving into the city.

We agree that officials should make parking enforcement signs as easy to understand as possible. Enforcement should be respectful and based on the rules, not a "Gotcha!" mentality. And both jurisdictions should avoid a reliance on the influx of funds, which will -- we would all hope -- dry up as drivers and parkers become more law-abiding.

It's hardly unreasonable, though, to ask drivers not to exceed the speed limit by more than 12 miles per hour -- the threshold for setting off a speed camera in Maryland -- in a work zone or near a school. It's hardly unreasonable to expect drivers to move their cars so the streets can be cleaned. You can pretend that this is all about George Orwell and the demise of liberty. Or, alternatively, you can obey the law.

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