Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Parking Fines and the DCA

I just received a notice from the city's Department of Finance that it has agreed to reduce my parking ticket from the original $115 to the bargain rate of $90. The reason for the magnanimity was the fact that the agency had been sent pictures that showed that my car had been parked on a street and under a sign that said "No Parking 7AM-6Pm Construction." The ticket on the car was marked at ten minutes after seven. Now as it turns out there is another sign about forty yards up the block that has no parking any time, something that alert city motorist should be aware of even though his car is parked under a sign that is clearly marked for legal parking at the designated time.

So, what we have here is an offer to essentially plead guilty for reading a sign correctly and parking under it. The reason we bring it up here, aside from the personal catharsis, is that the notice of reduction also stated the following:"if you don not wish to accept this reduction and want an Administrative Law Judge to review your case, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO DO ANYTHING. You will either be found guilty and you will have to pay the full balance or the summons will be dismissed..."

So there you have it. No possibility of personally pleading your case but an offer to take a "Deal or No Deal" reduction. This in a nutshell is what the city's retailers face on a daily basis from the administrative tribunals run by the various city agencies. It is precisely why the DCA wants to garner additional adjudication power over the retailers that it doesn't license.

This additional power would enable it to try the offender that the agency found guilty of an offense in its own tribunal, one with the same take-it-or-leave-it justice. Otherwise, the city itself has to go into court, where real rules of due process exist, and try to defend its enforcement action. In the past the agency has called this hurdle an undue an expensive hardship. Imagine what it will be for me, or a "convicted" retailer, if the ALJ finds me guilty of the parking offense?

One final note here. In last week's budget hearing on the DCA, the commissioner expressed extreme reluctance with the idea that DCA should assume all of the enforcement authority over street vendors. This is truly news worthy stuff. A city agency that doesn't want to increase its scope of activity and potentially its budget as well. If anything underscores just how difficult the vendor enforcement problem is, it is the refusal of DCA to step up and accept the enforcement responsibility for the problem.