Handicapped Parking: A Revenue Problem for Portland

Right From the Start

Right From the Start

Two weeks ago I wrote a column regarding the growth of government through the perversion of a variety of government assistance programs.  The worst of these, in my opinion, was the proliferation of handicap parking stickers – a seemingly endless parade of visibly young, healthy people alighting from monster trucks and luxury cars blithely trotting off to shop at whichever big box store or shopping mall they chose.  It wasn’t just about the volume of the perversion; rather it was also about the perversion of the purpose and its result.

Handicap parking stickers (plates and placards) were originated in recognition of those with mobility difficulties.  The idea was to place those in need closer to the entrances of stores, restaurants and businesses  – to reduce the difficulty of engaging in the fundamentals of community participation.  No part of those decisions or debates involved the opportunities for revenue for state or local governments.

My description of the abuse of that program was reinforced in an article by Joseph Rose in Saturday’s Oregonian relating to parking in downtown Portland:

“Out of the hundred of parked vehicles we passed, most had rectangular disabled permits hanging from rearview mirrors.  In Portland, that means the drivers can stay put all day without dropping a single dime into the meter.”

Oops!  Are you getting the sense of concern by the Oregonian reporter?  The article continued:

“Unbelievably, we encountered entire blocks of parked cars – five, six, seven in a row – all displaying disabled placards.  Hours later, just before quitting time, nearly all of them were still there.  They ranged from polished BMWs to beat-up pickups and a Nissan Leaf plugged into a charging station.  But there wasn’t one wheelchair-equipped vehicle.  Not one”

Mr. Rose then converges on what is apparently his primary concern:

“Portland estimates it looses an estimated $2.4 million to disability permit abuse every year”

Oh my God.  Portland City government is losing revenue – everyone to the ramparts.  Idiots!  What about the fact that the abuse of the disabled parking permits has the impact of denying those with actual physical disabilities the parking that would otherwise be available?  What about the fact that government agencies use the number of permits issued to justify the growth of their own agencies and to impose additional restrictions and costs on parking in private lots?

But Mr. Rose has the solution:  “Frankly, the fix is easy: Charge for parking.”

There you go!  Punish the innocent to preserve government revenue.

The Oregonian editorial board reinforced that this as an issue mostly about revenue to the city.  One of its Sunday editorial pieces noted:

‘The problem is runaway and now costing the city an estimated $2.4 million annually in uncollected revenue.  Most of all it is an affront to genuinely disabled people who, we’ve come to believe, are more concerned with conveniently situated open spaces than free spaces everywhere.”

But the last sentence is less a bone to what should be the real concern than it is a predicate to a proffered solution – extend the metered time for those with handicap decals.  I’m stunned.

But what is the real source of the problem?  City Commissioner Steve Novick, a person with actual mobility issues due to birth defects, noted that a four-year-old Disabled Parking Task Force was supposed to address the issue.  The Oregonian article noted:

“So far, it hasn’t, largely because it’s afraid of somehow offending the city’s disabled community.”

A bunch of timorous liberals so sissified by the extremes of political correctness that they are unable to help the very people they claim to champion – the disabled.

So what is the city likely to do.  Nothing, absolutely nothing.  Well, they’ll probably pass another law that they have no intention of providing sufficient resources to enforce.  It’s sort of like President Barack Obama’s response to repeated affronts from international despots – they progress from “disappointed” to “very disappointed.”

How about enforcing the current law?  State law not only requires that a vehicle display a handicapped placard but to also have the handicapped person to whom the permit is issued on board.  State law only requires free parking for those with “wheelchair assist” vehicles.

But that’s not good enough for Portland’s uber liberals, inspired by the extreme edges of political correctness – they’ll go the law one better and not only not require proof of wheelchair disability but not require proof of anyone.  It is reminiscent of the old definition of a liberal – one who throws both ends of hundred-foot rope to a man drowning seventy-five feet offshore and race off to discover another person in need.

In Portland’s government ruling class political correctness always trumps competence.  It is the reason that the City Commission could not bring itself to discipline a person of color who was indicted and subsequently convicted of fraud in a parking lot scandal.  It is the reason that the Mayor has failed to exact a suitable punishment for his chief financial officer (a person of color) for crude sexist behavior toward a Multnomah County Commissioner.  It is the reason that the City Commission remained silent when a former Mayor (the self-proclaimed first homosexual mayor) was accused and later – after his re-election – admitted to pursuing a teenage boy in a public restroom in City Hall.  It is the reason that “water house” was built in Portland at the cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars of water ratepayer money only to be sold at a substantial loss as “white elephant” a short time after its patron city commissioner retired.  It is the reason that they are unable or unwilling to move a proliferation of bums, street kids and drug dealers off the steps of the City Hall where they urinate, defecate and copulate with regular impunity.  It is the reason that downtown smells like an outhouse and drug dealers rule Old Town.

Portland deserves competent management.  Instead it gets a collection of pinheads addlepated by political correctness.  It is pointless to propose solutions because they would neither understand them nor pursue them.