If you're like us, you probably couldn't believe your ears when Mayor Eric Garcetti said he'd be requesting an additional 50 part-time traffic officers in order to, well, write more tickets and raise money for city coffers.
The fundraising effort is part of the mayor's budget proposal for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1. The document notes that “ticket issuance and corresponding revenue has begun to flatten.” Heaven forbid.
L.A. parking advocates, of course, are furious:
“We're not happy about this,” said Jay Beeber of the Los Angeles Parking Freedom Initiative. “However, we remain confident that we are making progress in getting some needed changes to the parking regime here in Los Angeles.”
The mayor's proposal would begin to give away tens of millions of dollars to businesses in town via reduced taxes, but it will attempt to continue to use the regressive tax of $58-and-up parking tickets to balance the city's budget.
The parking group notes, in the meantime, that the budget proposal includes a $30 million transfer from the city's parking revenues fund to its general fund.
The Parking Freedom Initiative has made reducing reliance on parking tickets at City Hall a priority for 2014. It wants to see the total cost of a ticket rolled back to about $25:
… The City seems to have adopted the attitude and practices of a monopoly capitalist enterprise with a corner on the market: charge whatever the market can bear … Workers earning at or near the minimum wage are being robbed of an entire day's wages for offenses which create no direct public harm or hazard.
But it looks like we will have to push back just to get Garcetti not to make things worse than they already are for local drivers.
The mayor is looking for a $5 million budgetary boost from tickets, but the Parking Freedom Initiative argues that the cash would come just as speedily if drivers had less fear of parking tickets. Shoppers would generate more business tax revenue, the organization says:
The Mayor has indicated to us that he is aware that Angelenos do not support a policy of revenue-driven parking enforcement and that he would be charting a new course. Unfortunately, it appears that he has chosen to continue along the beaten path of aggressive ticketing as a budgetary salve.
The group also wants to see “consequences for officers who issue a high percentage of contested or invalidated tickets,” according to a statement.
Beeber told us there was still hope – there's an “ongoing dialogue” between the Parking Freedom Initiative and the mayor's office, he said.
But he also said the organization would move forward with plans to put an initiative on the 2015 ballot that would, if successful, force City Hall to use parking tickets to facilitate commerce, transit and livability, and not as a de facto tax.
“We are forming a legal team to advise us on the proper approach and language for a ballot measure that can withstand the challenges we know will be forthcoming,” Beeber said.
The organization adds:
We're not taking anything for granted and we not naive enough to think that we can believe politicians when they tell us they are open to change. The real proof of their sincerity will be concrete action.