The state of California has mandated that cities raise their parking citation charges and the additional money goes to the construction of Courthouses. The logic is, I guess, that if the person cited challenges the citation, it will end up in court and therefore the cost of the courthouse should be born by the users.
So the State is issuing (borrowing) bonds and building courthouses and judicial centers and part of the funding is coming from parking citations.
I have a problem with this. Well a lot of problems, but the following comes to mind.
What is the purpose of the citation? Is it not to change the parking habits of the citizenry? If someone breaks the law isn’t the penalty an attempt by society to get them to follow the law in the future?
If that’s the case, what if it begins to work? (For instance, it is claimed by many in law enforcement that the ‘three strikes” law has taken many repeat offenders off the streets and therefore lowered the crime rate substantially.) Don’t get me wrong, I’m not for throwing scofflaws into the hoosegow, however if the purpose of parking fines is to motivate people to obey the law, then don’t we hope that eventually there will be no money collected because everyone will be parking properly, putting their quarters in the meter, and not overstaying their welcome?
Or are we developing the parking equivalent of a “speed trap,” used in many small communities to fund the police department?
If all drivers in California suddenly got “religion” and decided to obey the parking rules, how is the Golden State going to pay off the bonds for the new courthouses?
It’s obvious, of course, that the criminal justice system has become a profit center and feels it can rely on the fact that it is failing in its primary mission, enforcing the law and hence reducing crime.
In the mean time, parking fine aren’t really fines at all but merely taxes masquerading fines. If part of them are to be “user fees” to pay court costs, then so be it. They should pay for operational costs, not long term bonds. If the citation rate goes down, operations costs can be easily reduced (close a courtroom, turn off the lights, fire a judge). Rely on income that isn’t guaranteed to pay long term debts at your peril. – Just ask Arnie how he is going to pay for all the programs and projects started in California over the past five years on tax receipts based on housing value which skyrocketed in the first half of the decade, but which everyone knew were not going to stay that high. Can anyone say bankruptcy?