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Editorial: Toys instead of fines

Drivers hate parking tickets.

They hate all tickets, of course, but many motorists reserve a special vitriol for nuisance fines resulting from innocuous offenses seemingly on the books not to ensure safety but to create a steady revenue stream for municipal bureaucrats.

That’s why Councilman Bob Beers deserves a ton of credit for offering one of the more innovative proposals to come out of Las Vegas City Hall in years. Mr. Beers has sponsored an ordinance that would allow drivers to satisfy certain parking tickets with charitable donations — foodstuffs, clothing, toys — rather than fines.

The initial program wouldn’t be permanent, running instead just a few times a year. Some violations, such as double parking or parking in a fire lane, would still carry a fine. But those ticketed for minor parking offenses — failing to feed a meter, for instance — could substitute a donation to a charitable endeavor for the monetary penalty.

“It’s not an amnesty program, but basically it’s an opportunity to assist in helping the community food banks or local charities,” said Serafin Calvo, the city’s parking services administrator. “An equal or greater value would be acceptable.”

A handful of other cities, including Albany and Tallahasseee, have experimented with similar programs, some even allowing donations in lieu of fines for moving violations.

The approach offers many potential advantages for drivers, the city and the community at large. Not only could it reduce the number of offenders seeking to challenge such citations, it may also decrease the number of scofflaws who choose to tear up their tickets in anger rather than write a check to the issuing government. Meanwhile, the benefits to those in need are obvious.

The City Council is scheduled to consider the issue on June 15. Questions involving eligible charities would seem the only potential hurdle. Otherwise, this is a no-brainer.

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