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I am a big fan of mobster movies such as “Godfather,” “Casino,” “Goodfellas” and “The Departed.” One important aspect of these movies is the crews. The crews have certain rules. One rule is that they can earn money any way they want, but will be taxed by their higher-ups. A tax can be imposed for any reason. This rule always floats across my mind whenever Sacramento finds new ways to tax people.
I know the city is desperate for money, as shown by city layoffs and city park cutbacks, and I would be fine with all of this if the city did not have a history of irresponsible spending. Pouring redevelopment money into failed restaurants, for example. Does anyone remember the restaurant Three Monkeys?( http://www.newsreview.com/sacramento/exit-strategy-on-k-street/content?oid=891519 ) What about when the city used over half a million dollars to try to sweet talk the abusive Maloofs, not just once, but several times? That money could have saved the jobs of at least six police officers.
The city is now scrambling for money. They are doing the usual, raising fees for permits such as residential alarm permits, and increasing the fees for false alarm calls. If you own a home in Sacramento, you probably noticed that your trash and water bills have also gone up. These measures can only go so far.
The city has submitted a ballot measure to increase the city sales tax by half a cent. Kevin Johnson was supposed to write an opposing view for the ballot, but “forgot” to do so. Maybe he was too busy. I know it’s hard to do some important city stuff while you’re trying to distance yourself from a credit card scandal started by a personal appointee, or constantly trying to increase your mayoral powers, or trying to think of ways to bring a baseball team to Sacramento. Being the mayor is hard work.
So if the whole ballot thing does not work out, the city sees its financial salvation in parking fees. I don’t just mean increasing fines and meter rates.
Taxis are no longer allowed to park in any metered spot, whether they are on duty or not. So what that means is that if I want to go to Kru for dinner before 6 p.m., put money in the meter, and am not in my car, I will get a parking ticket for $100. The reason for this ordinance is to prevent taxi queues from spilling over to metered spots. When you see a line of cabs sitting by the Sheraton, that line actually begins farther down the street, or three blocks over, taking spots that can be given to paying customers.
I understand their logic, but what the city does not realize is that many drivers use their cab as their only vehicle, so taxi drivers can’t run any needed errands in their cab, or they have to park much farther away and pay for private parking. I confused the hell out of a valet attendant when I tried to hand over my cab keys so that I could have dinner at Monsoon. It was a first for the attendant.
Like any good mob bully, the city has decided to go after people with disabilities. The city has proposed to make people with physical disabilities pay at meters. Handicapped placards are becoming the new scapegoat. In fact, the city has a Disabled Placard Abuse Program. The program is designed to prevent people who are not physically disabled from abusing disability placards, something which I see happen every day, and very frequently in Costco parking lots. The city has presented many unscientific arguments to support this view. According to Jerry Way, director of Sacramento Department of Public Works, in a testimony before the city council on Aug. 9, 2012, there are more disabled placards than licensed drivers. Mmm, could it be that there are people with physical disabilities who can’t drive? Again, according to Way, there are more placards being issued in the Sacramento area than in previous history.. I don’t know, maybe people are living longer?
The council decided to look into this.
I contacted Disability Rights California, a legal group that advocates for people with disabilities. I spoke with Deborah Doctor, who said that DRC supports going after people who abuse the physically disabled placards.
This is what I know: Sitting at a window yesterday, I watched a woman with crutches and bound legs use a brace to gain her footing. I watched as she got into her car, which took eight minutes. I can only imagine how long it took this woman to get out of her car. If the city’s new placard policy, which needs state approval, goes through, that woman would have to add another challenge to her day: going to the meter in the middle of the block, then back to her car.
Don’t add more hardship to the lives of people who shop at local businesses, work in state offices, or just want to enjoy what this city has to offer.
If the city needs shakedown money, maybe we can make the Maloofs an offer they can’t refuse.