I like to think of myself as a rational human being. But there are a few things that drive me to irrationality simply by their frequency, duration, and in-your-face public display. In this case we are talking about the abuse of handicapped plates and stickers. (Okay, the other two are Justin Beiber and “the electric slide.”) I have written about this before and will probably write about it again.
There is nothing that drives me nuts more than watching a three-quarter ton pickup that needs a step ladder to enter and exit pull into a handicapped spot at Costco and then watch a twenty-something sprite dressed in cutoffs and a halter leap from the driver’s seat and race in to pick up a couple more cases of beer for “the boyfriend” who is waiting with his speed boat down at the river. It and other abuses are so frequent that I have even stopped people in the parking lot and asked them if they are handicapped. Invariably, there is an embarrassed reply that the car/pickup/van is “owned by John’s uncle or Sarah’s grandmother, or Bill’s cousin – none of whom are ever present or being transported. Or there is the belligerent response – “none of your effing business” – usually delivered by some hulk who looks like an interior lineman gone to seed.
The abuse of the handicapped designation is so bad that there was an article in The Oregonian a couple of years ago that noted that a casual walk around the streets near a downtown Portland health club found that nearly every single parking space available on the street was occupied by someone displaying a handicapped plate or sticker. (Parking fees are waved for the handicapped in Portland.) But in typical liberal fashion, the Oregonian didn’t bemoan the proliferation of handicapped displays, or even the difficulty that it might impose on people with actual handicaps in trying to access downtown Portland – no, the Oregonian was apoplectic about the loss of revenue to the city government. God knows you need to feed the beast.
Virtually anyone can get a “handicapped” designation. It’s like “medical marijuana” – there is always some doctor, chiropractor, acupuncturist or voodoo priest ready to sign the forms. And there is never anyone in law enforcement that actually checks – neither the accuracy of the information nor the actual use of the designation thereafter. For state and local government it is simply a sop to demonstrate their “concern” for the handicapped. Beyond that there is the periodic ritual to “renew’ their concern by increasing the fine for violations without ever increasing the budget for actual enforcement. What a joke.
But there is a solution to the problem. I call it the Full Employment Act of 2016. It’s pretty simple (but asinine) and it recognizes the evolution of technology such that virtually every person has in their hands a movie camera equipped with date and time stamps – a smart phone.
The legislature should authorize a new, independent, self-funded corps of misdemeanor bounty hunters. By simply amending the existing laws to allow “bounty hunters” to recover one-half of the fines levied, Oregon could create a cadre of good citizens willing to enforce the very laws that Oregon’s policy makers have said are important for the safety of our handicapped and to ensure access to public activities by those same handicapped Oregonians. Of course, the fines for handicap parking violations probably ought to be increased to the same level as littering (up from $1000 to $6250) to recognize that people are at least as important as candy wrappers and Big Gulp containers.
Just think of the opportunities. You’re sitting in the parking lot at Target thinking about dinner and a movie but knowing that your budget is too tight. Bingo, there goes a guy in Gold’s Gym T-shirt, muscles bulging, and making the high-climb alone into an SUV parked in a handicap spot –sure he has a handicap sticker but so does everybody else and there isn’t anyone with a handicap in the vehicle. Grab the smart phone, start the video showing the offenders face, license plate, and a cab empty but for him. Then click/click an email to the Oregon State Police and you are $3,125 richer. (For those of you forced to endure a teachers union led education in the Portland public schools, $3,125 is one-half of the $6,250 fine proposed above.) In fact, some enterprising fourteen-year old can probably cobble together an app that lets you do all of this and order the pizza and the movie tickets right from the same app.
This is a liberal’s dream solution. First and most important, the increased revenues give government more opportunity to waste money. Second, it does not require any active law enforcement participation (we don’t want to put more officers on the street for fear of offending some special interest group). Third, it encourages busybodies to tell others what to do. Fourth, it encourages citizens to “spy” on each other – we could even call these volunteers something like “the Red Brigade.”
And fifth, it creates the kind of jobs liberals love – show up when you want, quit when you want, and drink and smoke when you want without fear of supervisors. It would be like a progressive’s utopia – well, like a Portland.
Or, you could simply enforce the laws you have already passed and clear the decks of the cheaters, malingerers, and free-ride remoras. But that would alienate a goodly portion of the liberals’ voting base.