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The snow from last weekend’s blizzard is melting away, and so are the parking tickets. This afternoon, Muriel Bowser announced that she’ll void parking tickets issued during Friday’s snow emergency.
According to Bowser’s administration, 2,829 tickets were issued on Friday for cars parked illicitly on snow emergency routes. But now, saying that some parking scofflaws might not have known about the snow emergency or could have been running pre-blizzard errands, Bowser says she’s waiving them.
All that has LL wondering: What’s even the point of having these laws if the mayor isn’t going to enforce them?
Bowser debuted her arbitrary position on enforcing snow regulations even before the weekend’s blizzard. On Wednesday night, NBC4 reported that the Department of Public Works wouldn’t take advantage of a year-old law that makes it much easier to fine people who don’t shovel their sidewalks.
LL asked DPW spokesman Linda Grant if the agency really wouldn’t use the new tickets.
“We encourage everyone to shovel their sidewalks because it’s the right thing to do,” Grant wrote in an email.
Of course, DPW has an even more effective way than good intentions to ensure that sidewalks get cleared: fines.
For years, Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh tried to make it easier for DPW to fine reluctant snow-shovelers. Now she’s disappointed that the District failed to enforce snow shoveling rules in the first big storm since her legislation passed.
“If not in a storm like this, where it’s really especially important that the sidewalks be cleared, then when?” Cheh says.
The Bowser administration claims they didn’t enforce shoveling rules because DPW employees, who would be tasked with issuing the fines, were too busy clearing snow—a conundrum that could probably have been considered in the many months before the blizzard. Days after the blizzard, the city has belatedly started issuing fines for businesses with unshoveled walks.
NBC4’s Tom Sherwood, meanwhile, reports a less flattering explanation for the lack of shoveling tickets: the city just wasn’t ready.
Now, after ignoring shoveling rules, Bowser’s administration is retroactively dropping the fine for parking on a snow emergency route on Friday. With 2,829 tickets issued, that’s $707,250 in potential tickets (although the sum received by the city would eventually be lower, thanks to challenged tickets).
Notably, Bowser’s decision follows stinging press reports on the city’s ticket haul, although drivers whose cars were towed will still owe towing and impound fees.
Cheh isn’t happy to see that ticket money disappear, especially after the city spent so much responding to the blizzard.
“That money ought to go to help pay for the clean-up,” Cheh says.
So Bowser’s approval goes up and the District’s treasury takes a hit. Meanwhile, the city expects Washingtonians to believe they’ll enforce the snow laws in the next blizzard.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery