Group takes on Los Angeles parking tickets

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(AP Photo)

(AP Photo)

LOS ANGELES (CNS) – A group looking to foment a revolt against Los Angeles parking citation practices criticized Mayor Eric Garcetti’s budget proposal today, saying it relies too much on parking fines to generate additional revenue for the city.

Garcetti’s budget, released last week, calls for hiring 50 more parking enforcement officers and anticipates more fines to be collected in the 2014-15 fiscal year.

“It’s difficult to believe that our new mayor really thinks that squeezing the citizen motorists of Los Angeles harder than ever is the path to ‘fiscal sustainability,”‘ according to a statement from the Los Angeles Parking Freedom Initiative. “Frankly, we were hoping for more vision than that from his administration.”

Mayoral spokesman Jeff Millman defended the proposed addition of parking enforcement officers.

“Full-time traffic officers perform a variety of tasks, including special events and traffic control duties,” he said. “The 50 additional part- time traffic officers were added in order to backfill the time that the full- time officers are doing these activities.

The Los Angeles Parking Freedom Initiative was started last fall by Steven Vincent and Jay Beeber to challenge the city’s parking citation practices, which the pair describes as unnecessarily aggressive and punitive.

The group contends the city’s budget should not be setting a goal for generating revenue from parking fines. The city parking enforcement office should also adopt a public service mission, and rules must be drawn up to govern ticketing practices and consequences for officers who issue erroneous citations, according to the group.
Vincent and Beeber are seeking the ear of city leaders in an effort to implement their desired changes. They are also developing a ballot initiative in hopes of putting their ideas to a vote during the March 2015 election.

Parking fines start at $58, but should be capped at around $25, the average hourly wage of Angelenos, said Beeber, who was involved in a successful effort to end the city’s red light camera program.

A $25 fine would serve as a “sufficient slap on the wrist,” he said. “If you add significantly to that, then the fine becomes about revenue generation, rather than getting people to comply.”

But the group also has a more general goal of shifting the city’s approach to parking, saying it should be treated as a city service, rather than as a source of revenue.

Vincent, a 20-year Los Angeles resident and financial market analyst who spearheaded the initiative in November after encouragement from various neighborhood councils, said Los Angeles’ parking fines are “a highly regressive tax that hurts the poorest Angelenos the most, and the philosophy behind using parking violations as a way to fund city government” is the “wrong outlook”

The proposals that could be included in their ballot initiative include the proposed cap on fines, as well as provisions to protect a special fund with money generated by parking meters, garages and parking lots owned by the city.

The fund is meant to be used for creating more parking spaces in the city, but money is instead getting taken out from the fund to balance the budget, Vincent said.

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