Sit back while I tell my story of cars, cats and government overreach. It happened while I was away on vacation last week with my family. A friend called to let us know that my car which was parked on an Old Town street near my home had been tagged with an abandoned vehicle notice. When I called the non-emergency police number listed on the sticker, I was told that the relevant department kept administrative hours (it was 6:30 p.m.) and would not return until the following morning. My complaint that the sticker threatened a tow by 9 p.m. that night (21:00 hours in police lingo) was received with unsympathetic answers: The ticketing officers operate separately, and, Theres really nothing you can do at this point anyway.
I was incredulous. The idea that a law-abiding, taxpaying citizen of Alexandria could have her car towed as an abandoned vehicle during a weeks vacation is absurd. The still-unsympathetic officer said that a neighbor could report a car as abandoned if they noticed it hadnt been moved for a few days, and the city could tow it after 72 hours. (Ticketing officers could do it on their own volition, but more often it is a complaint-induced offense.)
So, heres the soapbox part of this column: This is a really, really, really stupid and unfair ordinance that needs to be amended. It is a perfect example of government overreaction and overreach.
Certainly no one wants an Alexandria with old and rusting vehicles cluttering our city streets, which must have been the origin of this regulation. (It must be, right? It cant be that the city is looking for ways to make life miserable for its residents.) So, someone in our city government had the brilliant idea that a car left unmoved for three days is abandoned. Im sure this number was arrived at in a scientific manner. (The number shall be three, and three shall be the number. Not two or four, nor five, but three.)
If anyone thinks it logical to assume a car unmoved for three days is abandoned, please raise your hand or write the Times with your opinion. Its not as if my car was perched on cinder blocks; at seven years old, it still looks pretty good. I have no problem with an ordinance against abandoned vehicles, but the number of days constituting abandonment should be far more than three. Maybe a month? Two or three weeks at a minimum.
And, really, what is a person supposed to do if they have a weeks business trip away or have a family emergency in another city … or, yes, just want to enjoy a week at the beach? Most people in Old Town, and many in other parts of the city, lack off-street parking. These people pay enormous property taxes on their homes and vehicles taxes that fund the very jobs of the city employees who concocted this ridiculous regulation. Should we pay to store our cars in parking garages while were away, when weve already paid for the privilege of parking on the street?
While were on the topic of unbelievable city regulations, did you know that Alexandria has a four-cat rule? (Im surprised its not three.) Yep. No one in Alexandria is allowed to have more than four cats, regardless of the size of their house or the number of children.
Ive always wondered how the city cat counter determines exactly when someone is in violation of the four cat rule. What do they do when a cat is pregnant? Do they believe life begins at conception or birth? And, what accounting principle does the city cat remover operate under, LIFO or FIFO? And its a good thing the city is only regulating the number of cats and not children, or else my friend Susan, who has five children, would be in big trouble.
My advice to Alexandrians who might be harboring a fifth cat is dont let a city worker in your house. And to those who lack off-street parking: If you have a neighbor you occasionally clash with, you might want to take him or her a homemade pie before you leave on vacation.