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Mixed message for the children
(Published September 25, 2000)

Apparently, D.C. City Council members ó as well as the Metropolitan Police Department and the Department of Public Works ó donít understand the mixed message they are sending to children with their recent actions that are being framed as a late-night "convenience" to some city residents.

Last week, the council voted unanimously to extend an administrative rules change for "high density parking areas" to all of the cityís residential parking zones.

What it all means is that certain residents are now allowed to violate minor parking regulations with impunity, as long as they do it between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. This is supposed to make it easier for residents to park their cars when they get home late at night, although they need to be up and out before theyíve had time to get eight hours of Zzzzzís.

We donít think itís a good idea to tell citizens that itís all right for some people to break the law under certain circumstances.

Either there is a good reason for these minor parking laws to exist or there isnít ó in which case, the bad laws should be repealed from the books, rather than our city officials making additional laws and rules that say itís OK to break the law.

And while weíre on the subject of teaching children to respect the law and law enforcement authorities, we still donít understand city officialsí justification for cancelling 17,000 tickets given out to motorists who ran a red-light camera on H Street NE, just east of North Capitol Street. The camera was removed after an outcry that accused the cityís contractor of simply trying to make money by placing the camera at a traffic light that motorists often ignore.

But isnít that supposed to be the point of the red-light cameras in the first place? Arenít we supposed to be trying to make people stop for red lights?

A red light is a red light.

Red means stop.

We teach that to children before they even get to school.

Seventeen-thousand motorists have been taught that itís OK to run that red light in the District of Columbia ó so what if a camera caught you breaking the law?

Now, at-large Councilwoman Carol Schwartz also has proposed that points not be assessed against driversí licenses when a red-light camera catches them breaking the law.

Címon, Carol. We thought Republicans were supposed to care about law and order.

If it is OK for motorists to ignore the traffic light on H Street, the red-light camera wasnít the problem. The problem is the traffic light. The city needs to either (a) remove it, or (b) enforce the law and ticket motorists who run the red light.

Likewise, if points assessed against driversí licenses is part of the penalty for running red lights in the District of Columbia, it shouldnít matter whether a person or a camera catches the driver breaking the law.

If the problem is the red-light cameras, then the city council needs to reassess whether using "Big Brother" technology to catch lawbreakers is the way we want our government to treat people in the nationís capital.

The law is the law.

Enforce the law or change it.

Donít tell people itís OK to break the law.

Copyright © 2000 The Common Denominator