Of all the side perks that come with a D.C. Council seat—-a chance at stadium suite tickets, all the banquet chicken dinners you can stand—-the license plates may be the best. Councilmembers receive license plates that grant them immunity from most parking tickets, and they can hand out vaguely prestigious low-numbered license plates to their supporters.
Incoming At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman, though, says she doesn’t want either license plate privilege. Silverman, a former Washington City Paper reporter, says she won’t use her councilmember plates. She also won’t send a list of names eligible to receive the low-numbered tags, which don’t confer any special benefits but delight status-conscious bigwigs.
“I have a few tickets I need to pay right now,” Silverman says.
Councilmembers don’t always use their plates. Late Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry, for example, racked up thousands of dollars in parking fines using a regular license plate. But the low-numbered plates, which are given to a list of people created by Council offices and the mayor, are an easy way to win over status-conscious District heavies. The most recent public list of special license plate recipients, compiled by DCist in 2011, includes prominent developers and lobbyists, as well as former councilmembers.
Silverman says she has other ways to show her backers gratitude.
“I don’t think low-number plates is the way to send that signal,” Silverman says.
Incoming Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau and new Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen aren’t as down on the plate privileges as their freshman colleague. Both Nadeau and Allen plan to limit their use of the councilmember plates, but they will continue nominating people for the low-number plates.
“People love their low tags,” Allen says.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery