Among the projects Mayor Greg Nickels has sought to fund with the Obama stimulus money is the purchase of $412,540 worth of new devices to issue parking tickets in Seattle. It's a proposal that has some asking what hizzoner is thinking since, for one, it adds no new jobs, and two, appears to stimulate only City Hall's ticket revenues.
At the website Stimuluswatch.org, where the public can chime in, Nickels' ticketing device proposal appears to have gotten a major thumbs down. Some unpopular funding pitches - made by mayors around the U.S. - got a minus 2 or 3 rating, and popular ones a plus 3 or 4; Nickels' $863,709 funding request to hire 11 new Seattle cops, for example, got a plus 18.
But the parking ticket plan got a thundering minus 279 - a 96 percent disapproval rate. Says one commentor: "What a perfect example of Government spending, they're taking our tax dollars to spend on devices that will enable them to take more of our money faster!"
Nickels' request isn't directly funded in the president's $787 billion stimulus bill - the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed by Congress. The stimulus money will be doled out project by project through federal agencies. Many of the requests, like Seattle's, are detailed in a long list compiled by the U.S. Conference of Mayors - of which Nickels is vice-president.
His proposed projects, which include transportation and capital improvements, total $224 million and would employ, he claims, 6,465 people. "The list was compiled a month or so ago, not knowing what the federal stimulus would look like," says mayoral spokesperson Alex Fryer. "We included ideas grand and small." And now that they know what the stimulus looks like? "We don't yet know if this [parking-ticket] request will be part of our official proposal," Fryer says.
If it is, the money could buy some of those new high tech handhelds for the city's parking enforcement officers, who use an older model. They include not only a portable printer, touch screen and the ability to download a history of your car's outstanding parking tickets, but a built-in camera to take evidence photos of your poor parking skills. Just the thing to go with the city's new red light cameras.