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$21 million in upaid fines: Seattle City Council closing parking scofflaw loophole

The Seattle City Council is set to close a loophole that allowed many of the worst parking scofflaws to avoid getting the boot. (Creative Commons/Agent Akit)

With some parking scofflaws owing the city of Seattle about $21 million in unpaid fines, the City Council is scheduled to vote Monday to close a loophole that's allowed many of them to get away with it.

Vehicle owners with four or more unpaid tickets are supposed to get the "boot" - one of those locking wheel clamps that prevent drivers from moving.

But a KING 5 investigation found drivers with dozens of tickets weren't getting the "boot" because they don't have valid addresses on file with the Department of Licensing. With the Seattle Municipal Court required to send a warning notice through the mail before a car can be immobilized, the scofflaws have been getting off scot-free.

KIRO Radio's Jason Rantz says that needs to change.

"If it's one person who forgot it one time, I understand that. But where you lose me is when you start to get four or five or 100 (tickets). That's when you are abusing the system and someone needs to punish you."

Councilman Bruce Harrell agrees. He's the sponsor of a measure closing the loophole. Passed by the Council's Public Safety Committee Wednesday, the city would merely have to paste a warning sticker on a car telling the owner it will get the boot the next time it's parked illegally.

How big is the problem? KING 5 discovered the former owner of a Capitol Hill vintage clothing store alone racked up 147 unpaid parking tickets. She had a California license plate and no valid Washington address on file with the state. So even though she never paid her tickets, she never got the boot.

The proposal is drawing plenty of praise. KIRO Radio's Tom Tangney says while he's all in favor of giving people warnings, it's clear some have gone way too far.

"I think it's great that the city is doing something about this."

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About the Author


Josh Kerns is an award winning reporter/anchor and host of KIRO Radio's Seattle Sounds (Sunday afternoons 5-6p) and a digital content producer for MyNorthwest.com.

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