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Parking Ticket Polka

When amnesty isn't

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When Damon Elias walks into the Boise City Parking Services office, they call him by name. At the Ada County Courthouse, a clerk there greets him by saying, "Not you again."

Elias, patient and polite to a fault, comes this time toting hundreds of pages of printouts, a clutch of credit-card receipts and an Idaho Driver's License that, he thinks, may be invalid.

Call Elias a frequent flier of the Boise parking-ticket system. Over the course of the last few years he has received more than 130 tickets while parking Downtown for his job at Louie's Pizza. It got to the point, Elias said, where parking patrol would greet him as he parked, and ask him if he wanted his ticket now or later.

So when Boise offered what they called "amnesty" to the holders of back parking tickets, he jumped at it. The city's offer: between March 15 and April 30, you can come in and pay for all of your old tickets minus the late fees the city assesses. That would have cut Elias's fee from $1,534 to $924. At the end of March, he borrowed the money from his employer Chris Mallane, and went across the street to City Hall.

So when BW printed his name last week after finding it on a list of delinquent ticket-holders, he was frustrated.

But then he became alarmed to find that because the city had sent his overdue tickets to traffic court, he owned Ada County hundreds of dollars in court fees.

So much for amnesty.

He now worries that his new driver's license, for which he had to re-take Idaho's driver test and pay for reinstatement, isn't worth a darn. With outstanding fees and tickets, could a police officer who pulled him over for any reason now accuse him of driving on a suspended license?

"What I did was dumb, and I admit that," Elias said. "But I'm working my butt off to get these paid off, and it's not doing any good."

Sadly, the fine print on the city's offer was crucial: If your case has gone to traffic court, you don't get amnesty.

But time's a-wasting for parking scofflaws citywide. Not only has the Boise City Council allowed the city to tow delinquent parking-ticket holders, they're planning further steps, according to Boise's Chief Financial Officer Jef Faw. By the time they get the towing program in place in a couple of months, Faw said, they'll also have contracted with a private collections agency to go after ticket scofflaws. Both contracts will pay for themselves, Faw said, because the contractors will get their money by collecting from ticket-holders. But while the city is more aggressively pursuing parking scofflaws, Faw said, Boise is also trying to make it easier for them to pay fines. Faw is hoping the City Council approves a $150,000 "parking management system" that will allow people to pay their fines online or over the phone without having to go to City Hall, as Elias has now done, he said, far too many times.

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