A resident of Newton, Massachusetts explained in a public meeting how well the parking system worked for him. When long time residents had a party, police didn’t enforce parking laws. When college students had a party, police towed all the cars away.
I shouldn’t pick on just Newton here. The Traffic Council has contempt for the law and police discriminate, but that’s business as usual around the country.
The problem is, as usual, laws that aren’t meant to be enforced. Aldermen say “no parking for anybody” when they mean “no parking for those people.” They can’t put “no parking for college students” in writing. Privately, to the police chief, they can say it.
One of the principles of our government is separation of powers, “a government of laws and not of men.” One group makes the laws, another enforces them, a third passes judgment. When cars are involved those roles are blended into an indistinguishable mass. There are cities of a few hundred people with their own police force and their own traffic court. In the office next door the Mayor tells both what to do.
While I am skeptical of the large federal government we have today, I acknowledge that federal prosecutors serve a useful purpose as a semi-independent check on corruption. Massachusetts lost three consecutive Speakers of the House to federal prosecutors when state prosecutors wouldn’t touch them.
There are police forces and prosecutors independent of cities. Unfortunately they don’t get used like they should.
It would do a lot of good if, for example, a fleet of State Police cars and tow trucks swarmed over Chestnut Hill next time long time residents had a party. Here’s your ticket and you can pick up your cars from the impound lot in Pittsfield.
Then they’d think about the consequences of a “no exceptions for parties” rule.
It would do a lot of good if the next city that lowered speed limits found a state speed trap set up a block away from City Hall.
“Do you know who I am?”
“Yes, Mr. Mayor, here’s your ticket for 22 in a 20 zone.”
“But we didn’t want city employees to be ticketed for driving to work!”
I believe in democracy, but I don’t owe alliegance to opinion polls or city council votes.
I’ve written about the tendency for people who drive 35 to insist that anything over 25 is dangerous. Under the current system they blow their mouths off and escape the consequences.
What if people had to put their money where their mouth is? If you ask for a rule, you get somebody with an eye on you with strict enforcement in mind.
Maybe I also believe in schadenfreude.
But it’s more than that. This month a police chief was forced out after one of her officers shot a pretty white woman. Americans want a trigger-happy police force, but only if they shoot the right people.
Americans want a ticketing army, as long as they ticket the right people.
That’s a government of men, and not of laws.
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