Alexandria Letter: A Tale of Three Tickets

Alexandria Letter: A Tale of Three Tickets

Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

My recent experience with the city’s parking bureaucracy has confirmed that city government has failed to make the most basic review of its system and rushed gluttonously into proposing to raise taxes and spend $1.1 million on parking enforcement.

I park on the street with a parking permit like most Old Town residents but received three tickets for no permit. Someone had stolen mine. At City Hall it took two different rooms to get a replacement.

To challenge the tickets, you must request a court date which must be “notarized.” There was no notary available in City Hall. Most notary services usually cost $5 so to fight each $20 ticket, can cost $5.

So the city denies you justice, unless you pay a notary. Notary requirements for basic government rights is a holdover from Jim Crow days. The form also threatens to charge you for extra court costs for contesting the ticket. Blatant intimidation.

I am assigned two different court dates almost three weeks apart.

The letter directs me to General District Court, Room 201. There is no check in. The bailiff says have a seat and your name will be called. People are being called in alphabetical order. They skip me in the alphabet. I ask: “Am I in the right place?” Nope, traffic is room 203.

I scurry down to room 203, late. Here many people have to show proof of a repair. A dozen police officers, two bailiffs, two administrative staff, a judge and the public waste a lot of time. The parking officer confirmed I was the only reason he was in court.

My name is called. The judge confirms my name. The officer replies the charges are dropped. Gavel strikes, two tickets dismissed in under one minute. I say, “Your honor, I have a third ticket here.” The judge says she is sorry and shrugs.

A deputy in the courthouse tells me people go to the wrong room a lot. “How long?” With a smile the deputy says: “Longer than I have been working here.”

Three weeks later I am back. This time I actually present my defense. The judge asks two clarifying points then dismisses.

This is a bureaucracy that preys on the economically weak and teaches people to have no faith in government. City Hall doesn’t need more money, it needs basic reform.

Dan Hazelwood