Friday, October 24, 2008

The Value of Government Plates

Now here's a real morale booster for regular citizens: government cars parked illegally may get tickets, but those tickets can safely be ignored, according to this article in the Washington Post.

According to a congressional report scheduled to be released today, federal workers in the District and New York City failed to pay $176,000 in fines for 1,147 tickets issued last year to their U.S. government vehicles.

Leading the way in the District were the Army, Navy and Air Force, whose employees ignored 158 tickets for $28,000 in 2007. Most were racked up by recruiters working at the Armed Forces Recruiting Center near 13th and L streets NW.

In New York, FBI agents set the worst example, accumulating $35,000 in fines and comfortably besting the Department of State ($28,000) and the Marine Corps ($20,000) in unpaid violations.

Almost half of the citations were issued during morning and evening rushes, increasing congestion and creating safety hazards, the report concludes. Other violations included parking on sidewalks, in handicapped zones and in front of fire hydrants and bus stops. Only 6 percent were for expired meters.

Parking in front of fire hydrants or in handicapped zones? Mere technicalities. Nice, eh?

Why aren't the local agencies responsible for parking enforcement doing their job by towing or booting the miscreant vehicles? Well, it seems there's a certain amount of, well, fraternal understanding:

The federal government's blatant disregard of city parking restrictions apparently is not drawing much ire from enforcement agents in the District and New York. And the report provides its take on the reason why: Municipal workers in agencies directly responsible for assessing fines failed to pay thousands of dollars in parking fines of their own.

In the District, city workers ignored $33,000 in penalties assessed to their government vehicles, including $10,000 racked up by the Department of Public Works, which is responsible for assessing the majority of tickets.

And in the Big Apple, where city employees had not paid $491,000 on 2,562 tickets, the New York Police Department had a delinquent balance of $192,000.

So, the lesson is that mere citizens cannot park illegally, but government employees can and do, apparently a lot. Laws don't apply to them. I guess it's a fringe benefit.

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