The Informal Evil of Parking Enforcement

There are two things a Los Angeles resident fears above all else: melanoma and parking enforcement. Earthquakes are a distant third, distant solely because it’s hard to live in perpetual fear of something that can happen at any time without warning but hasn’t for decades.

As I walked down the street, bleary eyed, to move my car on this permit-restricted street this Friday morning, I saw the glaring, pitbull-like face of the parking enforcement officer’s chariot, a mini Toyota Prius. Never has something so silent triggered so much fear. I watched the clock on my dash turn over to “9:00” – which means I’d quite literally made it without a moment to spare.

literally more terrifying than a cop car

This isn’t a dance I want to have to subject myself to, and it seems that the 1 or 2 vehicles who haplessly find themselves parked on the wrong side of the street at the wrong time should at least be let off with a warning instead of a $63.00 ticket.

I saw the two officers pull out to do this to a Mercedes. Gleefully, it seemed. They were wearing the standard uniform of the parking enforcement officer: a grim look, short haircut, cuffed blue shirt, and about eighty extra pounds each. Who were these people? Their job is to quite literally go around and ruin people’s days – people who are driving registered cars (which is a tax), have mandatory car insurance (another tax), pay the highest fuel costs in the nation due to taxes (yet another tax), not to mention are, more likely than not, a taxpaying citizen. These people have ostensibly paid for the roads, the bridges, and big heifers to ride around in toy cars to give people tickets many times over, so why do they need to pony up again?

If you grabbed one of these “officers” (a recently-acquired title it seems, apparently these individuals liken themselves to police-lite now) by their starched lapels and threw them against the wall, demanding to know why they’d take on a job that is designed to disappoint the good citizens of this fair city through every encounter, what reason would they give?

worse vogue photoshoot ever

Twenty years ago (the glory days, it seems) there was the meter maid. You don’t pay your meter in the busy downtown of the city? A lady on a bike comes and writes you a ticket. Disappointing, sure, but informal, transactional, and you feed the meter to keep the bustling downtown going.

Therefore – it seems the reason of “I always wanted to be a parking enforcement officer when I grew up” doesn’t really hold up, does it?

Plus, parking enforcement officers are no longer your friendly downtown meter maid – they patrol your walkable, suburban neighborhood like corsairs, waiting to relieve residents of significant chunks of change.


What could drive one to do something so casually evil?

Casual evil would be the foil to formal evil, the former being something that, by design, is not to harm someone, but in practice and without direct action, does. Formal evil is a process that’s methodically carried out with full knowledge of the consequences – a Batman villain, or an executioner.

Perhaps parking enforcement falls into a third gray area – informal evil. It’s too organized to be casual. It can’t be casual and have its own uniform. It’s also not formal enough to be formal, because parking enforcement officers haven’t, to my knowledge, killed anyone yet, despite meeting the personality characteristics of someone who’s most likely to.

There’s a reason this informal evil is allowed to flourish, and as with all good reasons, it has a profit motive: the city of Los Angeles makes $148 million a year from parking tickets.

As LA City Controller Ron Galperin states:

As much as we’d like to reduce parking fines, we currently rely on the revenues.

The City of Los Angeles “faces a projected $245 million shortfall” according to Galperin – essentially, without parking tickets, our city is broke.

One doesn’t think individual parking enforcement officers go home and tell their children that they provide for that they spent another day saving the city from a budget shortfall, but that’s the situation we find ourselves in.

Our city is like a startup (take note, President Macron) – we’ve monetized neighborhood streets. We’ve even introduced gamification – watch how the residents have to scramble in their PJs to move their cars so they can afford groceries that week!

Unfortunately, our city also pisses away money like an irresponsible startup – its office is in a historic Art Deco building Downtown (City Hall), enormous cash reserves are burned without any kind of accounting, and the whole goal of our city is to acquire more users.

Whenever anyone questions why we need parking enforcement there’s the obvious contrarian bleatings: “you want clean streets, don’t you?!” It’s the same idea at chafing at the necessity of an app that delivers laundry (not dry cleaning, laundry) to your door. No thank you. I prefer the convenience of waking up normally and not having to run outside and move my car, in the same way that I know it will take the same amount of time to collect my clothes so some stranger can take them away from me as it would to shove them all in a washing machine.

The streets above Hollywood Blvd, mind you, are free from the street cleaning mafia. There’s a little dirt in the gutters, but we manage to soldier on. So the “clean streets!” argument is bollocks. It’s for revenue, pure and simple.

Parking enforcement officers should be thrilled then. They can tell their kids they’re part of a hip new pre-revenue company called The City of Los Angeles (or West Hollywood, or Beverly Hills, because despite being independent cities with balanced budgets they can’t imagine an existence without that sweet, sweet parking cash). And we’re left to ponder just what kind of bizarre dystopia we live in while simultaneously deciphering the cuneiform tablets of our age – parking enforcement signage.

we’re diverse!

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