- Written by Greg Nelson
31 May 2011
THE CITY - For more than a year I’ve mulled over whether or not to write a column about my number one pet peeve – able-bodied people who park in spots reserved for the disabled.
As I started typing my first words I saw that the Los Angeles Times published a story entitled “Fraudulent use of disabled parking placards explodes in last decade.” [LINK]
But the focus of the story, and the impetus for law enforcement’s crackdown on violators was primarily about the loss of revenue to government. Millions of dollars each year.
Those special placards allow a person to park at a metered spot as long as they want for free.
A researcher found that in the city of Los Angeles there are six legally-issued placards for every meter.
My concern goes beyond the loss of revenue, which is bad enough on its own.
While we get encouraged after seeing almost weekly examples of people selflessly helping each other in times natural disasters, it bewilders and saddens me when I see people taking a parking space from those who need them to perform chores that so many of us take for granted.
There’s a reason why many of those spots are wider than normal. People who need wheelchairs or scooters to get around, or who have vans with special lifts need the extra room.
So when I come across a perfectly healthy person using a relative’s placard to grab a prime spot out of their own laziness, greed, and selfishness, I have trouble containing myself.
At a crowded beach parking lot, I once watched an SUV full of agile adults and children pull into a handicapped spot in a crowded beach parking lot and pop out someone’s placard. After watching for a while, I took out my camera and pointed it at them. I didn’t even turn it on.
They saw me, and as soon as they unloaded one adult drove the van away in search of a regular spot.
Other innovative cities have found ways of dealing with this problem.
In Santa Cruz County, a program called the “Quad Squad” was created. Handicapped persons were hired to enforce parking regulations in Capitola Village.
Finding themselves short on parking enforcement officers, some cities have turned to volunteers. Places like Omaha, NE, Houston and Amarillo, TX, Colorado Springs, CO, and Bloomington and Ft. Wayne, IN, and Honolulu, HI established special handicapped parking enforcement programs.
Jacksonville, FL calls its volunteers the “Parking Posse.” Palm Beach, FL started with disabled volunteers and later added others who account for 70% of the city’s handicap parking citations that are issued.
The volunteers in Las Vegas, NV account for 85% of the tickets issued for improperly parking in spots reserved for the handicapped.
Sometimes state laws need to be amended to permit cities to use trained and qualified volunteers.
An added benefit is the presence of additional eyes and ears ready to report suspicious behaviors or conditions.
I realize that somewhere there are risk adverse governmental attorneys who, as a kneejerk reaction, discourage new ideas those pose the slightest potential of lawsuits.
I know that there are city employee unions who argue against the idea of volunteers to do anything that their members have been doing, even if there aren’t enough of them to get the job done.
But elected officials need to balance those concerns against the rights of the disabled. If that isn’t enough of a reason, they need to count the additional income it will produce.
Neighborhood councils could take up the cause by finding potential volunteers, starting with the disabled community, and organizing a crusade. It’s the kind of thing they were created to do.
Vol 9 Issue 43
Pub: May 31, 2011