The Boston City Council agreed today to consider ways to help poor residents who find tickets on their car windshields.
But several councilors said that while they appreciate at-large Councilor Julia Mejia's proposal to let residents get a reduction on ticket fees by showing they meet certain income levels, they added they might prefer other ways to help out such residents instead of tinkering with ticket fees - such as doing something about the even more onerous fees and inconvenience of having their cars towed or in offering them community service in lieu of cash payments, or interest-free payment schedules.
Mejia said she began thinking about the burdens of parking fines on lower-income residents as she got ready for her inauguration as a city councilor last month - when she discovered she owed $159 in tickets, yet had to scramble to find the money to enter city service without owing the city money, since, of course, her $103,500 councilor pay had yet to start.
Councilor Andrea Campbell (Dorchester) said she feels the pain. "I have personally helped constituents pay tickets they were unable to pay," she said. And she said it's not an issue of people trying to avoid punishment for a parking infraction. She recalled one woman who made the rounds of every councilor's office, in tears, seeking help with a ticket she could no longer afford because she had been laid off. And she said there has to be a better way to punish scofflaws without towing their cars all the way to Frontage Road.
Councilor Lydia Edwards (East Boston, North End, Charlestown) praised Mejia for turning an "equity lens" on the issue, but said at this point she would prefer to look at such things as allowing residents with payment issues to get an extended period to pay off tickets interest free. She added her own personal gripe is how you have to pay a fee to pay a parking ticket online.
Councilor Matt O'Malley (Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury), however, opposed the idea. While he said he understands "it is very expensive to be poor," he said the city should spend more time helping residents reduce their need for auto transportation or to park illegally in the first place, through such steps as free public transportation, more meters in city business districts to encourage the freeing up of spaces, more bicycle paths and adoption of rental e-scooters.
The next move for Mejia's proposal is a hearing at which city officials and residents can testify.