Bill to modernize PPA tix appeals

Philadelphia Parking Authority kiosk on 12th Street near Reading Terminal Market. (Tom Gralish / File)

CITY COUNCIL is hoping to make life just a little bit easier when it comes to contesting parking tickets and other code violations.

Today, Councilman Bill Green will introduce a bill that would let people challenge tickets issued by the Philadelphia Parking Authority via the Web, email, mail or fax. Currently, those who want to contest a ticket must show up for a hearing at the Bureau of Administrative Adjudication.

"We want to make it as easy for citizens to appeal an enforcement action as it is for the PPA or the city agency to issue the ticket," Green said, adding that paying the ticket is usually cheaper than fighting it, which many people must take time off from work to do.

Freshman Councilman Bobby Henon will introduce a similar bill today that would allow Philadelphians to contest all other city code violations from agencies like the Streets Department electronically or by phone, mail or fax.

"It is onerous not only on seniors, but people who work a regular job when jobs are scarce these days and folks are taking care of their family at home," Henon said. "It is a cost-effective measure to get the proper adjudication."

Green said that the measure follows a model in place in Boston, New York and San Diego.

"The information you send in is a sworn statement, so it's subject to perjury and the hearing examiner makes an adjudication based on what you presented, and if they feel it's necessary they'll be able to schedule a telephonic hearing," Green said. "Then the case would be decided for or against the citizen."

In fiscal year 2011, parking violations included more than 1.6 million tickets issued mostly by the PPA, the Police Department, and SEPTA and Drexel University police, said Linda Miller, PPA spokeswoman.

The Office of Administrative Review already allows people with disabilities and those who live far away to challenge city code violations via mail, but Paula Weiss, the office's executive director, said that extending it to all has some disadvantages. Those include, she said, "losing the opportunity to have a face-to-face conversation about what may have occurred for a violation," Weiss said.

"I think it works better for the taxpayer in terms of customer service to discuss all of the facts. You can't get it all on paper."

Last year the city's various departments issued 277,786 code violations - about 94,000 more than in 2010 - for everything from public urination to setting out trash early and not recycling. Mayoral spokesman Mark McDonald said the Nutter administration would examine the legislation.