Friday, May 04, 2012

City Hall is "nickel-and-diming residents to death"

Nice turn of phrase by John Cote in the Chronicle this morning aptly describing City Hall's predator/prey relationship with city residents. San Francisco is

a city plagued by complaints that officials are nickel-and-diming residents to death with rising parking ticket fines, putting parking meters in some residential areas and planning to extend meters to Sundays...

Heather Knight's City Insider piece (below in italics) about parking tickets issued in Glen Park quotes MTA spokesman/bullshitter Paul Rose:

"It's business as usual at this point," Rose said. "We're just making sure people follow the rules of the road. The rules are put in place for specific reasons, and in this case, it's to ensure safety for all users."

"Business as usual" means that issuing parking tickets is very profitable for City Hall. As the Transportation Fact Sheet tells us, the city makes twice as much every year from parking tickets ($86,306,584) as it makes on parking meters ($40,520,486).

Paul Rose, spokesman for Muni, said there's been no word from on high that parking enforcement officers are supposed to be raising more money for the cash-strapped agency by issuing such citations. And he said individual officers aren't given a quota for the numbers of tickets issued or paid per citation; rather issuing tickets is up to their own discretion.

Paul Reisman reported on the reality in the Examiner a couple of years ago, when the city laid off some parking control officers to save money. The remaining officers simply picked up the slack to maintain the flow of revenue:

However, the MTA believes there won’t be a revenue drop, so long as the remaining 254 parking control officers step up their production. If each one of those officers gives out 540 monthly citations---nine less than the 2007-08 fiscal year monthly average of 549---the agency won’t lose parking-ticket money.

As the Examiner also reported, all of this nickel-and-diming residents comes as the city is giving adminstrators fat pay hikes.

And the Chronicle's Matier and Ross on overpaid city workers.

Residents along Chenery Street in Glen Park have been perplexed in recent days to learn they live on a hill. Common sense would say the stretch just east of the canyon is flat, but when you're talking about the Municipal Transportation Agency, common sense doesn't always come into play.

Several residents have been shocked to receive numerous citations for $50 apiece for failing to curb their wheels when parked on the street, tickets they've never received before. There's apparently a petition to fight the citations in the works and a pledge by some not to pay up.

Paul Rose, spokesman for Muni, said there's been no word from on high that parking enforcement officers are supposed to be raising more money for the cash-strapped agency by issuing such citations. And he said individual officers aren't given a quota for the numbers of tickets issued or paid per citation; rather issuing tickets is up to their own discretion. He added that citations are actually down year-over-year.

So the most likely scenario is that there's a new officer on patrol along Chenery Street who is taking Muni's rules very, very seriously. After all, the code states that drivers must curb their wheels "on any perceptible grade" which technically is one of at least 3 percent. In hilly San Francisco, that's pretty darn flat.

"It's business as usual at this point," Rose said. "We're just making sure people follow the rules of the road. The rules are put in place for specific reasons, and in this case, it's to ensure safety for all users."
- Heather Knight

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