It appears that the sequel to “Mr. Smith goes to Washington” would be Mr. Smith goes to Washington’s traffic court” . . . everyone else is. I have long written about how cities are abusing their citizens with short red-light cameras and other techniques to generate revenue through parking and speeding fines. It is a way to avoid having to raise taxes but effectively holding up citizens and then blaming them. No city however has shown the utter abandon as D.C. which raked up $1 billion in such fines in just three years.
Such predatory practices are highly regressive for the poor. As we have discussed, half of the country has no savings and lives pay check to pay check. D.C. however hits such struggling families with onerous tickets so that the city council can maintain spending without increasing taxes even further.
long been considered one of the most onerous places in the country for traffic fines, seeing a steady climb year to year in tickets issued and revenue generated. But recently the District broke into stunning new territory, issuing more than $1 billion in tickets in just three years.
John Townsend, Public Relations Manager of AAA Mid-Atlantic, is quoted as saying. “I don’t know another local jurisdiction in the entire nation that has generated as much money from traffic tickets, parking tickets and moving violations. That tells us that things are out of control and out of hand in the District of Columbia.” Keep in mind, D.C. only has around 700,000 residents.
D.C. had the highest traffic fines per capita at $170 per person. Not surprisingly, the second highest city is Chicago, which was the subject of any earlier column and my home town. Chicago is at $101.
Everyone who lives in D.C. seems to have stories of the aggressive ticketing and exceedingly high fines. Yet, it represents a windfall for the City Counsel members who already have the city ranking in the top 25 cities for tax burden (Chicago is near the top). It is obviously a stealth tax. However, what is most striking is how regressive it is for the poor and middle class who have marginal incomes wiped out by these tickets. Politicians do not have to face such questions because they blame the conduct of the drivers without dealing with the fact that it is not just the number but the amount of such tickets.