Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Why cannot we make diplomats pay parking tickets in NYC? Now we can. Sort of.

That is one of RDK's favourite questions. The answers are manyfold, but finally something has been done about it - Zero Tolerance and Big Bucks

The Senate yesterday adopted a proposal by New York Sens. Charles E. Schumer (D) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D) that would cut foreign aid to countries that owe New York City for parking tickets. The move, Schumer's office estimates, could recover as much as $21 million for 186,000 tickets from as many as 175 countries.

Egypt, which gets $1 billion and change each year in U.S. foreign aid, leads the scofflaw coalition, with nearly 18,000 tickets totaling $2 million. Kuwait ($1.3 million), Nigeria ($982,000) and Indonesia ($731,000) follow.

A similar legislative effort two years ago got the State Department to work a deal with the city, and the diplomats paid million of dollars, but the number has climbed since then.

The numbers in more parking-friendly Washington hardly compare. Over the last three years, diplomats have piled up $126,420 in fines on 1,605 tickets. Saudi Arabia and Cameroon -- talk about a contrast in wealth -- lead the pack, each owing a bit more than $11,000; Guinea -- Guinea? -- has 61 tickets worth $4,400 outstanding, followed by Russia ($4,300) and New Europe ally Albania ($4,100). The French owe $1,730 on 27 outstanding tickets, the Vatican owes $40 for one ticket, and the Brits owe zero.

The legislation would allow the secretary of state to waive penalties against a country if he certifies it's in the interests of national security. Such a move might affect his ability to get a decent restaurant table in Manhattan, however.

I always knew we could count on the Brits.


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