Supervisor Eric Mar was on the side of the angels yesterday when he convened a hearing looking into the Municipal Transportation Authority's enforcement of potential disability placard fraud; if Mar can help bring the legal hammer down on able-bodied folks who fraudulently represent themselves as disabled, hog San Francisco's precious parking spaces all day long for free, and cost the city millions in the process, more power to him.
And yet, a discussion framed around MTA enforcement could well miss the underlying -- and uncomfortable -- factor that has fed San Francisco's sea of blue placards: It's just too simple for disingenuous people to "legitimately" obtain disabled parking rights when they don't really need them.
Hey, don't take my word for it. That's the opinion of a San Francisco Civil Grand Jury Report from 2007:
State law authorizes many and various health care practitioners - fromIt warrants mentioning, however, that the grand jury also noted that the MTA and other city agencies don't have any power over the issuing of disabled placards -- that's the job of the Department of Motor Vehicles. The city can monitor DMV statistics and lobby state bodies to tighten up these rules, but, for the most part, the issues Mar brought up at yesterday's hearing are means of chasing down the horses after the barn door has already been left open.
audiologists all the way through to some categories of social workers
-- to certify someone as eligible for a blue placard. This very
multiplicity of types of certifiers also makes it easier for anyone to
shop around for a practitioner who will quickly sign one's application
for a blue placard. Further, since certification does not automatically
require an actual full-scale exam by the practitioner, the application
can be completed by office staff -- figuratively rubber-stamping the
application. There is little incentive for practitioners to say no, but
considerable incentive to agree to the certification. Practitioners
might worry that their failure to sign the authorization may result in
the loss of their patient to another practitioner.
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency's Department of Parking & Traffic (DPT) has developed a special unit for enforcement. Working in this special unit also requires additional training -- in conflict resolution and in sensitivity to people with disabilities. DPT's policy requires the presence of two Parking Control Officers for the issuance of a citation regarding blue placard laws. One officer interacts with the driver, while the other officer is there as a potential witness, in the event the citation is challenged. This burdensome process results in the issuance of fewer citations for blue placard violations than for any other type of parking offense.(Placard stings, of the sort mentioned at yesterday's hearing, do net a number of miscreants. The Jury noted, however, that staff shortages limit the amount of stings one can pull off to two a month -- and, still, this doesn't address the core issue of undeserving people getting permits lawfully.).