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Tooling down New Hampshire Avenue during evening rush hour, a tan Normile Roofing pickup doesn’t look much different from those driven by other tradesmen on their way home. But this truck has parking privileges the others don’t. Or so a decal on the rear bumper proclaims.
This truck belongs to a “GOVERNMENT COMPANY,” the sticker says in red sans-serif letters. Below a miniature, badly proportioned D.C. flag, with three tiny stars over two thin stripes, the tag admonishes, “DO NOT TICKET.”
Contractor Chris Normile’s pickup trucks cruise the District’s streets, carrying workers who do everything from fixing leaks to installing modified bitumen flat-roof systems. Sometimes parking in full compliance with
the District’s myriad parking regulations can be a challenge. But with his artwork, Normile has found the perfect solution.
The decal, Normile says, was approved by the District’s Department of Parks and Recreation. He explains that Normile Roofing has a contract to maintain the roofs of the city’s recreation and community centers and other department properties. “[The decals] give you permission to pull up on the sidewalks and stuff like that,” Normile says.
Normile’s son Jim claims the bumper art isn’t meant to mislead anyone into thinking Normile Roofing is part of the government: The truck decal doesn’t feature the D.C. flag, he says, but “George Washington’s coat of arms.” (Washington’s arms are the basis for the D.C. flag.)
But the stickers also protect Normile Roofing trucks from being ticketed when their drivers are working on a roof belonging to a private citizen or company—or even when they have, say, double-parked so one of the workers can grab a doughnut. Since he affixed the decals at his own expense last fall, Normile says, his trucks have never gotten a ticket.
“Government company” isn’t a concept enshrined in the law. Asked if “government companies” with parking privileges are rare, Normile says, “Yeah, well, there aren’t too many.”
In reality, according to the Department of Public Works, members of Congress and the D.C. Council have special plates exempting them from parking meters and residential parking restrictions. Other government workers, including federal employees and contractors, have the same privileges when on official business, which some indicate with temporary front-window placards.
An inquiry to the Department of Parks and Recreation failed to turn up anyone admitting having given Normile his parking privileges. Spokesperson Fitrah Muhammad says none of the department’s employees or contractors are permitted to flout parking laws. “I don’t know who this guy is, but…no one is exempt,” she says. “They are to obey the law.”
Contractors such as Normile, whether they have a homemade sticker or not, don’t need to risk tickets while on the job. They can get a special permit from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to park in residential zones during specific hours without fear of a parking-enforcement officer’s wrath. (“I never heard about that,” says Normile.) That method, however, involves braving the crowds at the DMV’s C Street headquarters.
Mary Myers, spokesperson for the Department of Public Works, which enforces the city’s traffic laws, discounts the possibility that an officer might be fooled by Normile’s claim that his company is a government entity and contends that the creative roofer has simply been lucky. “None of our officers would pay any attention to [the decals],” she says. CP