This morning, the Washington Post‘s Sue Anne Pressley penned a piece on American University drones who affix tickets to the cars of university students parked on streets just off campus. The story made the front page of D.C. edition Metro sections, and for compelling reasons: How often does a private entity venture into public space and essentially usurp a job that belongs to municipal authorities?

The story’s so compelling, in fact, that it’s been done at least twice before. Five years ago, the Post‘s Amy Argetsinger did precisely the same story. For purposes of comparison, here’s the lead from Pressley’s and from Argetsinger’s piece:


Lisa Madison, a Northwest Washington resident, was surprised twice recently to find parking tickets on her car windshield, issued by American University’s public safety officers. She was parked legally each time, she said, at least five or six blocks from campus. And she has no affiliation with the university.

When Madison called to inquire about the $75 tickets—which double to $150 if not paid in 15 days—she got another shock, she said.

“I said, ‘I don’t even go to AU, and I have a [residential] parking permit,’ “ said Madison, 23, an administrative assistant at the American Institute of Architects. “And they said, ‘Well, we can’t take the ticket away until you prove you don’t go to AU.’ They wanted a copy of my lease from my apartment….I said, ‘It’s not my responsibility to prove I don’t go to AU.’”

June 11, 2001:

Andrew Purdy didn’t think he deserved this ticket.

He had driven only a mile from his Massachusetts Avenue apartment in his Jeep with its Zone 3 parking permit. He had parked lawfully on a quiet Zone 3 street to pick up a book at American University’s law school a block away.

But when he came out, there was the $75 ticket on his windshield. Not from city parking officials, but from American University. Which wasn’t ticketing everyone—just AU law students.

Pressley, though, wasn’t just following her own colleague; she was also following the Washington City Paper, which produced a November 2003 AU parking piece that quotes a spokesperson from D.C.’s Department of Public Works as saying, “American University has no authority to ticket cars parked on city streets. It’s illegal.”

The only clue that Pressley & Co. knew that they were adding little to an old story came in this line: “Complaints about the AU ticketing policy are nothing new.”

As to why the Post felt compelled to write an update on the ticketing craziness, City Editor Marcia Slacum Greene says, “We got some recent complaints about it.”