Council passes bill forgiving old Philly parking tickets

A PPA booted vehicle parked on the corner of 46th Street and Mandela in West Philadelphia. A City Council bill passed this week creates amnesty for certain old parking tickets

Drowning in old parking tickets? A gift from City Council just arrived.

A bill passed Thursday forgives parking tickets issued before 2013, provided the vehicle owner pays everything owed in penalties from 2013 to the present. For those who haven’t received a ticket since 2013, a $50 fine wipes the slate clean.

But don’t burn your tickets just yet.

Mayor Kenney, who opposes the bill, is asking Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell to make some changes. Since the amnesty program passed, 14-3, Council would have the votes to override a Kenney veto.

“We’re talking with the councilwoman, and we think there will be additional changes to the bill,” the mayor’s spokeswoman, Lauren Hitt, said. She provided no details on those requested changes. Neither did Blackwell.

“I don’t know what the administration wants,” Blackwell said. “We’ve agreed to sit down over this month and see what can happen.”

Blackwell said she would not agree to any tweaks that substantially alter the purpose of the program — to lighten the financial burden on people facing decades-old penalties, some due to an aggressive Philadelphia Parking Authority crackdown on scofflaws.

“We’re trying to help those people that the no-good Parking Authority has been harassing,” Blackwell said. “They’re very mean, and they make people feel like victims in their own city. We believe that getting amnesty will really help. We’ve never had one before.”

The bill grants amnesty to those who pay their more recent fines in full and also to those who enter into a payment plan. It also forgives towing and storage fees from before 2015 if the vehicle owner pays 30 percent of the amount owed.

The window to enroll in the amnesty program would last for two months, from March 1 to April 30, 2018. The bill does not allow for another amnesty program for at least four years.

Blackwell introduced the program in 2016 after residents complained about getting nabbed for tickets going back as far as 20 years and sky-high penalties they couldn’t possibly pay.

The Parking Authority has long had the legal authority to boot cars because of old tickets — three is the threshold — but in June, it started matching new tickets to those associated with old plates and cars, some going as far back as 20 years.

The agency booted 1,000 more cars in October than in the same month last year, almost a 50 percent increase.

Kenney opposed an earlier version of the bill because of the money he said it would take away from city schools and a feeling it was unfair to those who paid their fines on time.

A recent audit of the Parking Authority found $76.8 million in uncollected parking fines since 2012.

“The proposal isn’t focused on people in need,” Hitt said last month of the bill. “We also have concern about the economic impact it would have on the School District. And it’s just also not fair to the people who did pay on time, or who are currently in a payment plan.”