After union bumping rights were exercised, the city of Schenectady would have saved, at most, $40,000 by cutting a second assistant police chief’s position from next year’s budget, as the City Council initially agreed to do this fall. So the council’s decision last week to restore the position is somewhat defensible — but only if it holds the department to some of the performance standards mentioned by President Denise Brucker at last Wednesday’s meeting.
Specifically, we’re referring to progress in the collection of more than $2 million in outstanding parking fines — and we mean substantial progress. It’s incredible — and offensive to law-abiding citizens as well as taxpayers — that the city can’t enforce something so simple as a parking fine.
When people park illegally, they should be given tickets. Consistently (see today’s letter to the editor from Rosemarie Pugliese for more on this subject). Often when they’re not — such as when they violate the alternate-side parking rule — they’re creating safety hazards, especially in winter when the city’s narrow streets are even tougher to navigate. By not ticketing these motorists, the city is endangering the welfare of its citizens, as well as encouraging other types of scofflawism.
It’s also passing up a lucrative source of revenue, which leads to another point: When people are given tickets, they should pay the fines or the city should track them down and make them pay. It can do so by “booting” them — disabling and/or impounding their car — or getting the DMV to stop them from renewing their registration. Tracking down these scofflaws isn’t as tough as it used to be now that the department has electronic license plate readers at its disposal.
Another point: The tickets should be in plain, easy-to-understand English. An Oct. 16 blog entry from Gazette Reporter Kathleen Moore indicates that Schenectady’s parking tickets contain too much fine print and hard-to-decipher codes. Maybe that’s why, she speculated after receiving one, so many people ignore them.
The city’s finances are such that it can’t afford the luxury of a third assistant police chief unless he earns his keep. Improving the collection of parking tickets would be one sure, quantitative way. The mayor budgeted for $230,000 in outstanding parking tickets to be collected next year. That would be only one-tenth of the total amount reported in October. The city needs to do even better.