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Parking: Disabled placards, Gold Cards and the apocalypse

May 24, 2011 | 12:42 pm

Placard

Remember when a Gold Card meant you had really good credit?

Remember when a disabled placard meant you actually were disabled?

Remember when people had integrity?

All I can say is, it's a good thing the Judgment Day prediction turned out to be wrong, because there would have been a lot of parking scofflaws in California in general and L.A. in particular who would've been left on the ground when the rapture started.

As Times staff writer Martha Groves reported Sunday: 

Fraudulent use of disabled parking placards -- those blue or red badges that allow motorists to park for free or in specially reserved spaces -- has exploded in the last decade, according to state motor vehicle officials. With 1 in 10 California drivers now legally registered to carry the passes, transportation experts say abuse has become commonplace. At any given moment, on any given street, more than a third of the vehicles displaying the tags -- and parking without paying -- are doing so illegally, say officials with the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

We all have our stories of suspected abuse of those little placards: Mine involves a family of four who parked their SUV in the handicapped spot at Mammoth all week while they hit the slopes. Maybe, of course, it was something I couldn't see -- but they all seemed pretty darn healthy as they piled back in the SUV after a hard day skiing.

But what I mostly wondered was, where did the disabled guy whom I saw skiing that day park?

Handicappedgate, of course, came on the heels of Gold Cardgate, the cozy little program that L.A. City Controller Wendy Greuel blew the whistle on last week. 

Turns out city officials were shocked! shocked! to learn that there was a special desk to deal with disputed parking citations. Not fair, declared Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

"Discontinue the Gold Card Desk immediately," Villaraigosa directed in a letter to the city transportation department's interim general manager, Amir Sedadi. The mayor also told Sedadi to "establish a uniform system accessible to everyone for contested parking citation intake and adjudication."

Wow. That's real leadership: the mayor telling a city department chief to do the right thing and treat everyone the same.

Next thing you know, our civic leaders are going to start paying for their own tickets to concerts and sporting events and the like.

Certain law-and-order commenters on these stories, of course, suggested that a little jail time might straighten people out. But with Monday's Supreme Court decision  that California must release thousands of convicts due to overcrowding, that's obviously a nonstarter.

But California's a true democracy. We have ballot initiatives on practically everything (see Tim Rutten's column on San Francisco's bid to outlaw circumcision).

So let's hear from you, California. 

First up, "Joe Poe":

I think the handicapped should get the closest spaces, but not for free. This would dissuade many of the evil freeloading phonies. Also think public shaming is in order for the phonies. Wearing sandwich board reading "I Took Advantage of the Disabled" and parading up and down Rodeo drive should be the punishment!

Your turn, "hey zeus":

Is there some sort of sale on high-horses today?  We're talking about parking, you self-righteous nit wits.  The city charges money just for the right to STOP your vehicle and get out at your destination... and we're supposed to feel remorse for circumventing this scam?  Somehow this has become about morality?  We are talking about PARKING.  These are laws that need to broken.  We should be cracking down on parking enforcement, instead of attacking the few people smart enough to get around it.  Maybe if the city took the money they waste on meter maids, and spent it on less dispicable ways to earn revenue, this wouldn't be an issue to begin with.

Finally, "tomdavis":

This is just another sign of the moral decay of our society.

OK, direct democracy has, um, certain limitations. Although I do kinda like the sandwich-board idea.  And I couldn't disagree more with "hey zeus," who is probably the same guy who cut me off on the freeway the other day.

In the end, "tomdavis," though a bit overdramatic, may get my vote.

Instead of laws, maybe we could try just a little common courtesy, a little integrity? 

It couldn't hurt. And if you need an extra incentive, remember that Judgment Day prophecy has been changed to Oct. 21.   

RELATED:

Know thy neighbor

America the stony-hearted

In L.A., no more 'Gold Cards'

-- Paul Whitefield

Photo: David Wisansky, an investigator with the California Department of Motor Vehicles, speaks with Magdalene Osherenko as he confiscates her disabled parking placard during a sting operation along Camden Drive in Beverly Hills on May 22, 2011. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles

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