Taking Up Space: Houston police hijack scarce public parking for personal cars

I’m not sure who remembers or who read my original post regarding vehicles with police parking placards and expired inspections/registrations. But it seems that just recently, a local TV news crew has uncovered there’s more to it than I first found out.

KHOU-TV recently reported on police officers assigned to work in the 1200 Travis building, parking on the street with their police placards to avoid having to pay the parking meter. The problem is, many of these spaces are normally two-hour limit spaces.

The meter maids are either complicit with this state of affairs, or simply lack the spine to actually write parking tickets and cite fellow city employees for flagrantly violating the law.

From the story:

[N]either did a uniformed officer whose personal car sat for a full eight-hour day [have anything to say].

I-Team: “Must be nice, park all day, don’t have to pay? Is it fair that you get to park for free and other folks don’t, officer?”

Lois Holmes was quick to answer that question.

“No it’s not fair! If I have to pay they should have to pay,” Holmes said. “I don’t pay, I get a ticket.”

Which, of course, is the same reason I posted my story about expired tags and inspections–an average citizen is noticed with expired items, he/she gets a ticket. It’s the same deal with parking, which is actually a bigger problem because of the limited amount of on-street parking that exists to begin with.

But this is the part that really burns me up:

Turns out, HPD does provide parking spaces for its employees, and even offers a shuttle service to and from remote lots. Those shuttles cost taxpayers more than $400,000 a year to run.

Two-fifths of a million dollars to run the shuttles. And at least some of the employees feel they are above using them. And in fact, feel they have a “get away with it” card when blowing off the law that means they don’t have to use them.

(To get an idea just how much money this is, the city of Houston has taken in some $1.6 million per day on average so far in 2012 if I read the State Comptroller’s report correctly. So, $400,000 is about a quarter of an entire day’s sales taxes. I assumed the totals as of the time I downloaded the report were through the close of business on April 19, which could be wrong.)

Outrageous. If anyone at HPD is wondering why the department has an image problem, look no further.