Council Debates Who Writes Parking Tickets
Proposal to take parking enforcement out of hands of police department and into code enforcement scrutinized by Hyattsville City Council.
Who do you want writing your parking ticket? A police officer or a code enforcement officer?
That very question vexed members of Hyattsville's City Council last night as they discussed next year's budget for the Department of Community and Economic Development. The council took no action on the department's budget measure during last night's meeting.
The budget, in addition to laying out dollars and cents for the next fiscal year, also calls for parking enforcement to be taken out of the hands of the city police department, and placed into the hands of the city's code enforcement officers.
Councilor Tim Hunt (Ward 3) worried that such a shift in duties could cause a decline in the quality of the city's code enforcement efforts. The budget calls for the code compliance manager to split his time overseeing a two-person parking enforcement operation in addition to managing a four-person code compliance department.
"I don't know if we'll have the capacity to work weekends or evening hours with code enforcement," said Hunt. "If we make the acting supervisor of code have to deal with parking, it will take away from code enforcement."
Councilor Paula Perry (Ward 4) agreed, saying that any such move should also include hiring more code enforcement staff.
"I feel very strongly that the parking should really be on the police department," said Perry. "If you are taking the manager and making the code manager code and parking, that's taking another code officer off the street, and in my opinion that's when you need to hire another inspector."
Councilor Shani Warner (Ward 2) was also skeptical of the reorganization.
"The number one thing I hear from residents are code enforcement issues," said Warner. "It's an incredibly important part of our city government and what we do."
Mayor Marc Tartaro said that the reorganization was proposed after consulting with Police Chief Doug Holland and Code Enforcement Supervisor Chris Giunta. He said the police department wanted parking enforcement taken out of their hands.
"I'm fairly safe in quoting the chief here, and he said 'if you want all of parking under code enforcement, be my guest'," Tartaro told the council. "There has been a lot of internal discussion about some of the pros and cons about this."
Tartaro said that adding more code enforcement staff is a possibility.
"The goal is not to reduce the ability to have code enforcement and have people out on the streets," said Tartaro. "If we need to add additional capacity, I would certainly be in support of that."
Council Vice President David Hiles (Ward 1) was one of the few city elected leaders who voice approval for the reorganization.
"I actually like this proposal," said Hiles. "Moving parking out of the police department is going to give us a more effective police department…if we take parking out of the department and put it into this community and economic development group, it will benefit from more attention and focus, because it's closer to the core of their work."