Saturday, August 28, 2010


A newspaper article in the LA Times recently said that the City of Los Angeles collects only 53% of the money owed on parking citations. That said, what it does collect amounts to $130 million. “During the first quarter of the most recent fiscal year, the audit found, unpaid parking tickets totaled $210 million. Of that total, about $91 million had been pending for more than two years.”

The day the auditor issued the results, the city laid off 200 employees.

What got me is that several weeks later the LA Times has a large article about parking meters being installed around town and how the city needs to do this because it needs more revenue. Well, DUH!

Do I believe LA is unique in this business of uncollected citations. Of course not, for a starter, our own IRS has a huge backlog of uncollected taxes that goes back years and years.

Once I worked for a smallish company who insured doctors against malpractice claims. The goal of this company was to attempt a fair financial settlement of cases where the doctor was clearly at fault and to fight to the bitter end if the lawsuit was “frivolous” – just someone wanting to get some quick cash. (And there were plenty of those). Although this was a noble undertaking, it soon became obvious that the bulk of the suits were settled because it cost too much to fight them. In other words, it was a business decision, not a moral decision.

It may cost the City of LA more than it is worth to pursue these overdue tickets. However, I am distressed because of this: the “little guy” who gets a parking ticket pays it because he doesn’t have a high-powered lawyer behind him to guide him through the ins and outs of beating the system. The scoff-laws know that if they play their cards right they can thumb their nose at rules and regulations. The little guy knows if he tries that he’ll end up with wages attached or bill collectors hounding him – or in the pokey.

As if this isn’t bad enough, the powers that be are always looking for more ways (in this case, newer, pricier parking meters, higher ticket costs, more onerous add-ons, etc.) to get money out of those who pay for their indiscretions: not the scoff-laws or the pompous asses but again, the little guy who tries to be a law-abiding citizen.

I think it is morally disgusting to not collect money owed while devising new ways to increase revenue. This goes not only for your city or mine, for any county, any state and for our US government. A self-righteous “business decision” punishes the good guy who is trying to do right – and in this economy may himself be teetering on the edge of financial insolvency.

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