June 22 2012

D.C. Government’s Creative Ways of Raising Money

Donna Wiesner Keene

Even politicians who promise no new taxes sometimes find a way to part citizens from their hard-earned money. 

Take seat belt laws, passed in the name of safety, but which are now a big source of revenue for many localities.  Recently, the District of Columbia determined that they can ticket you in your private driveway if you dare start your vehicle before you buckle up.  And it does not stop there – a recent out-of-state motorist was stopped for seat belts and detained for dog sniffers then fined $1200 for various so-called violations, including $500 for not having his registration with him although the computer showed proper registration.  Others have been detained for not having a driver’s license with them, causing small children to not get picked up on time. 

DC and the surrounding areas have also lowered the speed limits and added cameras “to stop speeders,” although driving below safe speeds can be just as dangerous.  Drivers become more likely to fall asleep at the wheel, let their minds wander, or, as I saw on Highway 295 yesterday, text while driving when forced to go slow.

Another way to steal your money in tickets is to arbitrarily change the speed limits back and forth, unrelated to changing driving conditions, which is common in suburbs.   Those mind-wandering drivers are sure to miss a sign then get a ticket, which is the point. 

After 9-11 restrictive visa and airport checkpoint requirements drove the world’s tourists away from the United States, and the District’s laws are forcing many of us to re-think our decision to shop or even visit the nation’s Capital today.  It boils down to money … the $40,000,000,000 DC collected in tickets last year doesn’t include the expensive parking meters that force DC visitors to lug around rolls of quarters.  If meters actually work – the timers are off on many – and accept credit cards, the cost is $1/minute. Visitors actually find whole blocks of street parking, but soon learn the cost and pull away.

Congress used to exercise oversight over the District, but that has become a too-cozy relationship that’s really just for show, not reality. 

It’s all ok – the nation’s children don’t need to see the Lincoln Memorial this summer anyway, right?

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