Minor traffic violations hit ‘little people’

May 9, 2012

By John Seiler

Minor traffic fines are a part of life. They’re supposed to warn us not to do something again: park by a fire hydrant, park where the curb is the wrong color, park with an expired meter — or park in the wrong place on streetsweeping day.

Such petty violations aren’t supposed to generate revenue. But nowadays governments have wasted so much money, they’re always eager to filch more. An easy target: these minor violations.

So Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has had refused to make adequate cuts in the city’s immense waste, now wants to increase the fines for these minor traffic violations by $10. The new fine for a streetsweeping offense will be $78 for each infraction. The fines have increased five times during his seven years of misrule. Reported L.A. Observed:

“Parking fines in Los Angeles are already way disproportionate to the crime, but in his desperation to balance his budget Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is planning to ask for the sixth increase in his time in office. Is it a policy move because parking violations are becoming some kind of civic nuisance? Uh, no. The number of tickets being written has been going down. It’s strictly a revenue play: the city wants more money and thinks this a groovy way to get it.”

The $40 million raised supposedly would be used to reduce the $238 million city deficit. But this is another excuse not to go to L.A., or to stay there. If they’re going to treat people so badly, why have anything to do with them?

A $25 file would be a reasonable warning — a kind of friendly reminder.

But $78 is a smack in the head.

It’s especially damaging to poor people trying to eek out a living in an expensive city in an an expensive state. Someone looking for work will be severely hurt.

It’s not going to hurt rich people at all. For example, last year ex-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was issued a parking ticket (see picture above; video here). What did he care? He’s worth $700 million. (Or half that, pending his divorce from Maria because he was parking in the hay with the family maid, and produced a “love child” with her.)

Also note that Arnold was driving a Mercedes G-Wagon SUV, a vehicle larger than the panzer tanks the German Army rode into Poland in 1939. What about Arnold’s vaunted environmentalism?

The meaning is clear: The Villaraigosa-Schwarzenegger Elite gets to tool around in gigantic cars that use massive quantities of gas, while scoffing at traffic laws.

You ride in an cheap car to the unemployment office — and when you leave, you find a $78 ticket on windshield.

15 comments

Write a comment
  1. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 9 May, 2012, 11:05

    Yep! The circle is closed, Mr. Seiler. They got us right where they want us. These taxes (that’s what they are) don’t have to go to the vote of the people. The bought-off politicians can simply raise them at will. $78 for a street sweeping violation would be like a ice cream parlor charging $50 for a single scoop vanilla cone – and getting it – because the government made it a monopoly by outlawing the sale of ice cream everywhere else in the State. It is like a crime syndicate that can raise prices or force their will upon you whenever they feel the urge. It is like the mafia in the 20’s that used to shake down businesses in Chicago for protection money. And if you don’t pay up – you suffer the consequences. It is legitimized theft and fraud. We need to label it so everyone knows what they’re dealing with here. Instead of calling them “street sweeping fines” the should call them “mandatory shakedown payments”. We need more honesty in America. I wouldn’t mind it so much as long as we call it what it is. That way I would feel better about giving.

    Reply this comment
  2. CalWatchdog
    CalWatchdog Author 9 May, 2012, 11:28

    The City of Sacramento has increased parking violations and the like so dramatically, that it now costs $52 for an expired meter.

    The gross fallacy of this is that everytime I park in a metered space, surrounding me are cars with handicap placards, who not only park for free, they can remain in the same spot all day. I can’t even add money to the meter without getting a ticket for staying beyond the 1-2 hour limit.

    What a racket.

    Katy

    Reply this comment
  3. Claire Voyance
    Claire Voyance 9 May, 2012, 11:31

    REMEMBER:

    LA Mayor, Council Members Used ‘Gold Card’ To Erase Parking Tickets

    http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2011/05/19/audit-la-mayor-council-members-used-gold-card-to-erase-parking-tickets/

    Reply this comment
  4. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 9 May, 2012, 11:44

    Thank you for reminding me, Claire.

    You see, that is how the entire nation is run…..PAY FOR PLAY. From the public unions to the banksters to the financial corporations to the pharmaceutical companies to the oil companies to the American Medical Association….and on and on and on and on……….

    And it is not just large scale. If you happen to be a rich guy with connections in Los Angeles and want the convenience of getting out of paying for parking tickets – just submit payment and get yourself a ‘Gold Card’ which is iron clad protection that you won’t be treated like one of the ‘little people’. heh. 😀

    We are no different than Mexico, Claire. We are just a little more deceitful and try to hide it more than they do. 😀

    Reply this comment
  5. Rex The Wonder Dog!
    Rex The Wonder Dog! 9 May, 2012, 12:01

    This is how you pay mutlimillion dollar pensions at age 50 to GED edcuated gov dorks, by raising regressive taxes 100% or more every 2-3 years, hitting the poor and middle class. I am sure if Villar could raise the LA sales tax to 15% on his own he would do that too.

    Villar is a dork, and the sooner he can get out of Dodge the better LA will be.

    Reply this comment
  6. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 9 May, 2012, 12:16

    “Villar is a dork, and the sooner he can get out of Dodge the better LA will be”

    Oh, he’s fulfilled his mission, rex. He has done all the damage that he intended to do from the get-go. He’s termed out now. He is looking for bigger and better things as an Obama staffer. And the long legged mac daddy will bring him on….watch and learn. He will get a nice plush job on an immigration panel and really screw us NATIONALLY versus locally.

    Everybody seems to forget that Villar was screwing around on his wife and betraying his child early on in his mayorship. Back in the 60’s or 70’s that would have been the end to his political career. But today it’s expected. No big deal. And if Villar will betray his own family – he would have ZERO hesitation screwing over you, me and the rest of the citizens. He’s an evil slimeball only out for personal gain. And he will destroy anything that gets in his way.

    Reply this comment
  7. queeg
    queeg 10 May, 2012, 08:33

    What a pleasant bio on Mayor Tony!!!

    Pulitizer worthy?

    Reply this comment
  8. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 10 May, 2012, 09:18

    Frick ♥ Tony too! 😀

    Reply this comment
  9. Claire Voyance
    Claire Voyance 10 May, 2012, 10:46

    Toll scofflaws get free ride with confidential license plates
    By Thomas Peele and Josh Richman
    Contra Costa Times
    Posted: 12/12/2010 12:00:00 AM PST
    Updated: 12/12/2010 04:59:53 AM PST

    For 18 months Scofflaw No. 593 blew through FasTrak toll plazas at two Bay Area bridges almost every day and never paid up.

    Scofflaw No. 593 — named for the random number assigned to the anonymous driver in regional toll reports — was able to do this because the driver was part of a largely outmoded program that prevents certain government employees’ addresses from being traced through their license plates. Because they can’t easily be traced, some are abusing the system by intentionally zipping through FasTrak lanes without an electronic toll account.

    In all, 1.5 million government employees, elected officials and their families have the so-called “confidential address” plates, part of a program started in 1978 to protect police and others involved in law enforcement from being tracked to their homes by criminals.

    Those drivers could be police officers, an officer’s spouse or child, judges, prison guards, child abuse investigators, state legislators or even museum guards.

    Who are they specifically?

    Don’t ask. It’s a secret, even when laws get broken.

    Public records show Scofflaw No. 593 dodged a bridge toll — $4 at the time — 467 times in 18 months, sometimes twice in the same day. That’s $1,868 in unpaid tolls. If the average citizen did this once, a ticket would soon arrive in his or her mailbox ordering payment of the skipped toll plus a $25 fine, though the fine would be waived if the driver signed up for FasTrak.

    And Scofflaw No. 593 isn’t alone. He or she is one of 4,415 drivers who blew through Bay Area bridge tolls 27,335 times from June 2008 to May 2010 without paying while driving a car registered through the Department of Motor Vehicles’ confidential address program, playing a game of catch-me-if-you-can with toll authorities while the rest of the motoring public coughed up the $4 toll or faced fines.

    Eventually, these scofflaws with confidential plates can sometimes be tracked down to their places of employment. But even when they are found, toll data show they aren’t paying, or, in some cases, paying as little as 12 cents per violation. That’s how much one driver paid for each of 242 violations — a total of $29.04 — when the violator was located, according to data the Metropolitan Transportation Commission released last week.

    Another scofflaw skipped tolls 458 times and has yet to pay.

    The top seven violators in the 18 months of data obtained and analyzed by Bay Area News Group combined for 2,547 violations, or $10,188 in unpaid tolls. Of those seven drivers only one of them has paid anything: a total of $314 for 385 violations. That’s about 82 cents per toll.

    An MTC spokesman said last week that the collection process “appears to us to have little value at this point.”

    It is expensive and time consuming, said the spokesman, Randy Rentschler, and “allows some people to abuse the system.” He said he could not explain how some people were able to pay so little after being found.

    It could be because MTC negotiated a settlement or too much time expired, voiding many of the violations.

    “We have what we have because it is in law,” Rentschler said. “We are accustomed to writing this off.”

    When the program was implemented in 1978 to protect law enforcement, anyone could walk into a DMV office with a plate number and walk out with a vehicle owner’s home address. But motor vehicle laws have been changed to keep the addresses of all drivers confidential. Still, more public employees continued to lobby for inclusion in the confidential plate program.

    Not even other public entities — which also treat the information confidentially — can obtain the home addresses of those drivers, even when they abuse the privilege given them.

    On Bay Area toll bridges, the confidential-address toll runners get away with it two-thirds of the time: Only 9,050 of those 27,335 violations were collected, in large part because it often takes longer than 21 days to locate the vehicle owner, and state law requires that drivers be notified of their violations within that time period.

    By contrast, authorities eventually collect toll infractions by motorists without confidential plates 60 percent of the time.

    Rentschler noted the MTC loses about $10,000 a month in skipped tolls from confidential-address enrollees — a fraction of the $600 million a year the agency collects on local bridges.

    Costly to collect

    Tracking the relatively few scofflaws is rather expensive, Rentschler said. While home addresses are not linked to the license plates, agencies do have access to information about car owners, including the agency they work for, which is the only way MTC can locate them.

    Rentschler said the program also creates a significant public-perception problem: an abuse of privilege by those the state sought to protect.

    “Public employees should be held to a higher standard,” he said. “We ought to be careful not to abuse our privileges.”

    But even when a scofflaw is caught, MTC either waives its $25-per-violation fine or negotiates it down “modest amount” that covers the cost of locating the person at work, Rentschler said. “We just want to collect the tolls. We aren’t in the business of being punitive.”

    But two-thirds of the time, the driver either doesn’t get the citation or ignores it, records show.

    “Say it is a teacher in the San Francisco schools,” Rentschler said in a recent interview. (Although teachers aren’t directly eligible for confidential plates, they may be the spouse of a person who is). “We send it to the district’s main office. But the teacher may work in a school elsewhere in the city.”

    The citation then may not reach the person in the 21-day period for it to be valid, which makes it questionable whether the fine can be collected.

    DMV won’t weigh in

    If the Department of Motor Vehicles has an official position on the confidential plate program, it’s not being shared.

    In two recent interviews, DMV representatives Jan Mendoza and Mike Marando wouldn’t say whether the program needs legislative improvement or if it is obsolete. Their jobs are not to question why, they said.

    “The department administers this program through the Vehicle Code, and that is what we’re bound by,” Marando said. “We cannot sponsor legislation, that’s not our role, and we remain neutral on most legislation.”

    The DMV, however, didn’t remain neutral on a recent bill that would have further given more people privileged plates. It opposed adding more job classifications to the program, stating that “given current protection afforded in law to everyone, such legislation is not necessary,” according to an Assembly Appropriations Committee analysis. It also cautioned that adding job classifications would mean many more would want to get on the list in the future, and that the program is already costly and labor intensive.

    But the DMV opposed another bill that would have required it to update the program’s enrollment form to demand a specific work address for each driver, and would have required the drivers to keep the DMV updated when they move to a new work site. This bill would have placed “a significant burden on the department” to get and process all those addresses, the legislative analysis said.

    Both bills died in committee, but even so, Mendoza said the department wouldn’t comment on them.

    Marando did say the department issued a memo in May reminding parking and toll agencies that when they encounter a violator with a confidential address, they should contact the headquarters of the agency at which the violator works, and that they could add the violation to a driver’s vehicle registration record so the unpaid toll and/or fine must be paid when the car is registered again.

    “This process was really created as a means to make it much more difficult to game the system,” he said, although he acknowledged there’s nothing new here — the memo was “more of an educational procedure to reaffirm … that this capability has been there.”

    Bay Bridge tops list

    For the 18 months that Scofflaw No. 593 ran toll plazas, data show that almost all of the violations involved two bridges — the Carquinez, where drivers pay a toll while headed east on Interstate 80, and the Bay Bridge, where motorists pay on the way west to San Francisco.

    The driver passed through the Carquinez toll plaza on average about 7:30 a.m., according data obtained under the public records act.

    The driver then passed through the Bay Bridge tolls later on the same day, often after 10 p.m., data show.

    Most of the toll violations by confidential plate holders for the two-year period examined occurred on the Bay Bridge: 8,241, followed by the Benicia Bridge at 6,424 and the Carquinez at 6,281.

    Data show that of the 109 drivers who ran tolls more than 50 times in the two-year period, most did it a majority of the time on a single bridge.

    Scofflaw No. 4121, for example, drove across the Bay Bridge without paying 315 times and the San Mateo and Carquinez bridges once each, the data show.

    Scofflaw No. 4198 ran the toll plaza at the Benicia Bridge 149 times, data show, but didn’t cross any others without paying.

    Police defend program

    So who thinks the privilege of confidential plates should continue?

    Police, for one.

    “We need that other layer of protection,” said Ron Cottingham, president of the Peace Officers Research Association of California, a law enforcement lobbying group also known as PORAC.

    Cottingham said the reasons for maintaining the confidential plate program are “still there, still valid.” Although he acknowledged that other state laws were tightened so that people can’t access home addresses through the DMV, “the people that operate the toll roads and the bridges and things like that can,” he said.

    Outlaw biker gangs, drug cartels and other forms of organized crime sometimes try to infiltrate government agencies, getting people to take jobs — or bribing those already in those jobs — in order to access information that isn’t otherwise available, he said.

    “It sounds bad; it sounds like we don’t trust these other people,” he said, but there have been cases of this in the past and the Peace Officers Research Association of California and other like-minded groups aren’t willing to gamble with officers’ safety.

    Cottingham couldn’t cite any specific examples of criminals obtaining officers’ home addressees through motor vehicle records, but he offered a few general descriptions of instances in which public agencies were infiltrated or compromised by criminal elements: one, in which someone inside the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office was informing suspects before search warrants could be executed on them, and another, in which a police department employee helped someone track down witnesses in a homicide case. He wouldn’t say when and where that happened: “There’s an ongoing investigation on that.”

    Solutions offered

    Cottingham said he wouldn’t oppose a tightening of the program to cut down on toll runners and other scofflaws. Perhaps agencies that employ people eligible for confidential plates should be required to maintain up-to-date databases of their employees’ work addresses, he said.

    “They should have the ability to search their records and say, ‘That vehicle belongs to Corrections Officer Smith, send us a ticket, we’ll get it to him and make sure he pays the fine,'” he said. “Maybe it’s our responsibility to do that. I know some departments have done it.”

    He also said he wouldn’t oppose a full review of the long list of job classifications now eligible for the confidential address program, which each constituency explaining its needs and concerns.

    Rentschler of the MTC said he was confident that if the agency were allowed to obtain the home addresses of police officers and mail tickets to those places, it could protect the confidentially of the information the same way it does the data of all other motorists.

    As more public employees push for the privilege, he said, it could be time to tighten the rules or do away with them altogether.

    “There is no reason we can think of that we, a public agency, cannot treat all people the same with respect to collecting toll money. We protect everyone’s privacy to the maximum extent,” he said. “This is probably a place where we could make better law. Time has passed this by.”

    Reply this comment
  10. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 10 May, 2012, 11:11

    Thanks for reminding me about the confidential license plates (CLP), Claire.

    I have been screaming about that scam forever. There are 1M government hacks in California who have those CLP’s. They are immune from the rules of the road. When a cop pulls them over and runs their plates which come back CLP – they get a wink and a nod. I have actually written DMV and asked them to do a PER-CAPITA study between the CLP population and the non-CLP population – showing at what rate both populations get ticketed. I contend there would be a HUGE HUGE DIFFERENCE that would show a miniscule per-capita ticket rate for the CLP population as compared to the non-CLP population. You would NEVER see that study, Claire. The government would NEVER allow it.

    And we know about the gold cards in Los Angeles for the government swine and their cronies who are exempt from parking tickets.

    The corruption in America is over the top. Equality under the law!!!HAH! 😀 My ***!

    Reply this comment
  11. queeg
    queeg 10 May, 2012, 12:04

    The political class rules you for the common good…when grandaddy begged for clean/cheap water and granny demand energy saving appliances/electricty their heros Woodrow Wilson and FDR gladly helped these unfortunates for the “general public good”.

    Every since the political class is revered…dibbying out common good goodies you all have come to love and enjoy…

    No one wants to go back in caves except Doomsday Preppers!

    Reply this comment
  12. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 10 May, 2012, 12:49

    Frack ♥ hacks. 😀

    Reply this comment
  13. boji
    boji 5 December, 2012, 11:38

    It is time to look at income-based traffic fines. The privileged can disregard traffic laws because the fines don’t matter to them.

    Reply this comment
  14. boji
    boji 5 December, 2012, 11:53

    Addendum to previous post
    Higher social class predicts increased unethical behavior
    http://www.pnas.org/content/109/11/4086

    Reply this comment

Write a Comment

Your e-mail address will not be published.
Required fields are marked*



Related Articles

Rail authority offers no ‘remedies’ for bullet-train plan’s legal flaws

On Nov. 8, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny will hold a hearing at which “remedies” to the shortcomings in

California’s Legislative Analyst claims NIMBYism driving state’s housing crisis

When Gov. Jerry Brown’s aggressive proposal to jump-start housing construction by sharply streamlining the approvals process for urban housing projects

Blame sequester theater, not sequester, for threat to CA beach

Sequestration theater — the Obama administration’s attempt to make a de facto freeze on overall government spending as painful and