Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Washington Post editorial against statehood because of traffic tickets is the dumbest thing ever

Bears Crossing So this isn't Columbia Heights-specific, but I believe that voting DC representation in Congress will be good for the entire city, including our area.

Basically, the Post's Dana Milbank makes the argument that because he got tickets for running and stop sign and running a red light, DC doesn't deserve statehood. Honestly, that's the argument.

The bigger issue that Milbank introduces is that DC is very aggressive with traffic cameras, which he (and AAA, the car lobbying group) calls a "war on drivers." And he starts to make a valid point, but misses -- he mentions a DC Inspector General audit that found DC sometimes ticketed speeders even if they can't identify the correct car and that a study aimed to convince the public that the cameras are good for public safety rather than just for raising money didn't work.

Those are both things that should be fixed, obviously. However, rather than go into more detail about that, show ways to fix the system, or gather more information, Milbank sets off on writing about his personal experiences. He received a $50 ticket for not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign, and a $150 ticket for "a legal right on red after a slow-rolling stop" -- that is, not coming to a complete stop. Sure, people do these things all the time, but they're still illegal. Milbank is basically arguing, as the City Paper put it, that DC shouldn't enforce these laws, and because they do, DC shouldn't get statehood.
D.C. officials testified before a Senate committee Monday afternoon about their desire for statehood. I’m sympathetic, but statehood is not going to happen anytime soon — nor should it, if the government runs the place like a banana republic.
Talk about throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

I wonder if Milbank got a ticket in Oregon or Delaware or some other place for doing the same thing, would he argue that their statehood should be taken away? No, because that's completely ridiculous.

He also doesn't quote anybody at DC government by name, he only quotes that IG audit and a AAA spokesperson, a group that lobbies for drivers and against traffic rules. He doesn't talk to anybody who might not like "slow-rolling stops" at red lights, like pedestrians or bicyclist groups.

He also complains that fighting tickets rarely works, citing his own denied appeals for incorrect parking tickets and mentions the caseload of the people who handle the appeals. However, he doesn't do any actual reporting here, he doesn't quote how many appeals are successful or unsuccessful, how long they take, or anything that would help (or hinder) his argument. I can use anecdotal evidence to show the opposite too: I personally fought a traffic camera ticket I received after selling my car, and won, and a friend successfully appealed numerous parking tickets she shouldn't have gotten. That doesn't mean it's not a pain to appeal, but again, Milbank doesn't say we should make that process better, he just whines about breaking the law twice.

To me, it seems like he's auditioning to work for the Examiner, or maybe to replace Ed Anger, the fictional maniac columnist for the Weekly World News, that paper you buy in the checkout line that reports on politicians being aliens, Bat Boy, and such. I think he would fit in well at either place with this quality of analysis and logic.

Photo by Adam Fagen


  1. It's a column, not an editorial. Big difference.

  2. Camera tickets are unconstitutional. The guy has a point. If DC can't even follow the constitution, then why do they deserve to be recognized for representation? Although to be fair, our president doesn't follow the constitution anymore.

    LOL at trying to justify speed camera tickets. If somebody took a picture of you walking down the street with a red solo cup, I guess you should automatically be fined. /sarcasm

  3. Nice name. I'm not aware of the amendment about speed cameras. If you think they're unconstitutional, get a lawyer and take them to court. Redress grievances and all that.

  4. The argument in the Post is kind of silly but that said, DC should not be a state. The founders had it right when they said that no state should house the federal capital. That state would have too much influence over the federal government simply by proximity and that's still true today.

  5. Perhaps, but the Constitution has been changed 27 times already. And I doubt the city would have undue influence, there are federal agencies headquartered in other states now (CIA, NSA, the Pentagon) and those states don't unduly influence those agencies.

  6. 5th and 6th amendment. I recommend reading up on it. Thanks.

  7. Again, you are welcome to take them to court.

  8. A little late to this conversation, but DC *should* be a state and Milbank's column *is* stupid.

    DC residents are sick and tired of hearing people use whatever complaint they have about DC politics and policy to justify denial of basic political rights. The status quo is oppressive and tyrannical. If these sanctimonious oppressors want to use every little excuse (we won't fix their tickets???) to say we don't deserve statehood they have to start taking statehood away from every place in this country that has instances of corrupt politicians, overzealous laws or law enforcement. We'd have a very small country.


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