Two neighborhood officials renounce parking privilege

Media Credit: File Photo by Olivia Anderson | Photo Editor

James Harnett, a junior and an ANC commissioner, gave up his D.C.-issued parking permit.

Two officials on the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission signed a letter to the D.C. Council last week relinquishing their free parking permits.

James Harnett and Trupti Patel, two of Foggy Bottom’s eight commissioners, signed an open letter with 24 other local commissioners pledging to hand in their D.C.-issued permits that allow them to ignore meters and time restrictions when parking. Commissioners said in a letter that they turned in the passes to protect the environment and public safety, support accessible public transit and encourage proper use of government benefits.

“We encourage other elected officials to join us in recommitting to ethical, legal behavior in all that we do, and leading by example as we push for a safer D.C. through all modes of transportation,” the letter states.

Harnett, a junior, said he wanted to bring attention to “inequitable” access to public transportation across D.C., which he said has negative consequences on people’s livelihoods and education.

“I signed it to draw attention to the serious mobility and transportation issues people face across the city,” he said in an email. “Many of our neighborhoods aren’t connected, which makes it hard for people to find free or cheap ways of getting around, to jobs, childcare or school.”

Harnett said free parking permits contradict D.C.’s goal of promoting public transit.

“If the District government gave all their employees and elected officials free bus and rail passes instead of a parking pass, it would show you where our priorities lie,” he said.

Harnett said the letter was drafted by four newly elected commissioners: Matthew Sampson, who represents Dupont Circle; Evan Yeats and Erin Palmer, who represent Shepherd Park and Takoma; and Robb Dooling, who represents Near Northeast.

Patel, the other Foggy Bottom and West End commissioner, did not return multiple requests for comment.

Other commissioners said they signed the letter for environmental reasons, saying there is an incentive to drive if parking is free and that can harm the environment. Commissioner Ryan Linehan, who represents Ivy City, said there is little time left to curb climate change, so the issue requires a quick response.

“The letter quotes the United Nations studies that suggest that 12 years is the time we have to reverse man-made effects on the climate,” he said. “I think that’s extremely short, and I think that means we have a lack of time to discuss – we need more action.”

Commissioner Corey Holman, who represents Southeast Capitol Hill, said that while the environmental aspect of turning in a parking permit is “commendable and important,” he decided to give up his pass to avoid taking advantage of a benefit that isn’t also available to his constituents.

“If I have to go to a hearing at Judiciary Square for a zoning matter, well, so does my neighbor, and if my neighbor doesn’t get a free parking pass, then why should I?” he said.

Commissioner K. Denise Rucker Krepp, who represents Hill East, turned in her parking permit last year and signed onto the letter this week to raise awareness about the abuse of the parking privilege by D.C. politicians, singling out D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans’ illegal parking as an example.

She said turning in her parking pass was a way to keep herself an “honest elected official in D.C. who promotes transparency, transit and accountability.”

The 26 commissioners who have signed onto the letter represent six of D.C.’s wards. No commissioners from Wards 7 and 8 have signed onto the letter.

Commissioners submitted the letter to D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson Friday and copied Mayor Muriel Bowser and the rest of the Council. Commissioner Michael Sriqui, who represents Palisades, said he doubts the Council will propose any action in response to the letter because its members are likely not interested in turning in their own permits.

Regardless of whether the letter leads to any legislation, Sriqui said turning in his parking permit was “the right thing to do” and added that the letter was “a start.”

“It’s a statement of 20 or so individual commissioners saying that they want to move forward and in a different direction,” he said.

Kelsey Bartlett contributed reporting.

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