". . .Steps will be taken to eliminate free parking for government employees in order to reduce the waste of energy, particularly gasoline, in commuting to and from work ."
Ever since the president uttered that line, in his button-up-your-overcoat pep talk to Americans, the U.S. government has been involved in a guerrilla war with its employees, one of every seven of whom now has to pay for a parking spot he used to get free.
Unhappiness with pay parking is not limited to any one class of U.S. workers. The protests came from lowly cler from admirals and generals, and even from the head of the CIA. He said his folks in the Langley, Va. woods shouldn't have to pay to park because bus service to the agency is lousy. But six months after Carter said that the government was going to set up its own pay lots, more than 350,000 employees have gone into pay parking. Others have joined car pools or are parking someplace far from the office where they don't have to pay.
Six months after the parking fees went into effect, a federal judge here ruled that Uncle Sam may have acted improperly in implementing pay parking on the basis of something the president said on television. Commenting on a lawsuit brought by the American Federation of Government Employees, U.S. District Judge Harold H. Greene quashed a government motion to dismiss the case. He said, in effect, that government workers don't have "property rights" to parking spaces at the office, but that the AFGE union might have a case on grounds that Carter didn't implement the parking order properly, as part of his energy conservation program or via an executive order. p
The judge's decision, which was cheered by much of bureaucratic Washington, left many people with the impression that pay parking was about to end. And many hoped that they would be able to get back their portion of the $1.5 million that federal agencies collect here each month. The word is, don't hold your breath. And don't count on any parking-fee rebate to do your Christmas shopping.
Uncle Sam is sure to fight the case all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary. Some legal eagles believe Carter could carry the day if he would issue an executive order implementing the pay parking system anew. But they speculate that he will not do that before the election anyhow.
Currently federal workers in metro Washington pay between $25 and $30 a month for a space at the office. Some rather large bureaucracies have grown in a number of federal agencies to administer the collection of funds, assignment of spaces and distribution of parking signs or stickers. Next year, if the pay-parking edict sticks, those fees will double for many parkers to bring fees up to commercial rates.