Nickels’ Hail Mary Is Attached to a Parking Placard

Tough guys with Grandma’s parking pass face a $250 fine.

In 1988, George H.W. Bush was running for President as a member of an unpopular incumbent administration. The polls were grim; unless his hat had a rabbit, he'd be tipping it to Michael Dukakis, a man whose persona was so dry that comedian Mark Russell dubbed him "Zorba the Clerk." Well, thanks to political strategist Lee Atwater, Bush found that rabbit.Actually, it was a convicted murderer. Willie Horton was his name, and he'd been granted a weekend furlough from a Massachusetts prison while Dukakis was governor. He subsequently went on a rape-and-robbery spree that gave Bush and his allies the ammo they needed—in this case, mug shots of a scary black man who'd raped a white woman—to swing the vote their way.Fast-forward 21 years to Seattle, a time and place more genteel. Nevertheless, we see an unpopular incumbent struggling to regain his footing against at least one strong challenger. Greg Nickels needs a Willie Horton, except a Willie Horton won't work. Enter last week's announcement: The mayor is cracking down on those who abuse disabled-parking placards—the jerks who steal Grandma's wheelchair sign to park near the entrance to the grocery store, where they stock up on Maxim, extra-large condoms, and Axe body products. Under Nickels' proposal, the fine for misusing a placard will be $250, and officers can issue it to the car (for example, if they know the placard is stolen or belongs to someone deceased) rather than only to the driver, as is currently required. At present, the fine is simply a parking violation—usually $35, says SDOT's Rick Sheridan.How prevalent are such offenses? The mayor's office says that 85 percent of those who were asked by Seattle Police whether they had misused a placard had in fact misused it. And who exactly did the police ask? Those they suspected of misusing the placard.To count the constituencies this legislation will please, you'll need more fingers than a Hindu deity. To start, there's old people, disabled people, placard-makers and their supply chains, parking cops, and enviros. Likely to be displeased: Nickels' opponents. This was a stroke of G they wish they'd suffered themselves.

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