I am submitting my written testimony as a public witness.
The Department of Public Works has played an instrumental role in improving the quality of life for residents in my community. The divisions for which we have regular interactions with are parking enforcement, and sanitation enforcement and abatement. In light of the recent report from the Committee on Public Works and Transportation, I have some recommendations for the fleet management division. My specific recommendations for each division are outlined below:
The sun rising in the East is the only thing that is more predictable than our parking enforcement officer. This around the clock enforcement helps tamper crime. For example, during September 2010 we had stolen cars left on the public streets. DPW is responsible for alerting MPD to have the vehicles removed expeditiously.
For FY2012, an untapped source of revenue is enforcement on private parking lots. Fairfax Village IV has a private parking lot including garages that are accessed via a public alley. In order to have cars towed from our lot, an authorized representative of Fairfax Village IV has to contact DPW or MPD with the make, model, and tag number to come out an issue parking tickets. Given the time and resources we have to expend, we are unable to adequately enforce parking to a level that discourages illegal parking. In addition, we have residents who avoid converting their tags to DC by parking off the street.
An opportunity would be for communities with private parking lots with a parking permit requirement to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding that allows DPW to enforce “basic” parking rules. By “basic” parking rules I mean proper DC tags, recent emissions testing, parking in fire lane, parking in private alley, and not having proper permit for the private lot. Given that parking enforcement officers have specific areas, it would be relatively easy to manage the MOU. For example, the parking enforcement officer in my area only has a handful of private lots that would be added to her rounds.
Abatement of litter, trash and other debris places an important role in quality of life of my community. We have regularly called on DPW to abate trash on vacant lots and commercial properties. For example, 2250 38th Street SE is a house that a developer never completed. The lot routinely becomes a dumping ground, in addition, to the overgrowth of bushes on the sidewalk. DPW brought out a crew to clean up the trash and cut back the bushes. I do not know whether or not the property owner was assessed a fined.
Another example is a DPW has issued citations and assessed fines to the commercial property owner in my neighborhood. However, since the fines for sanitation enforcement are so low, the commercial property owner pay the fines as the cost of doing business, but does nothing to mitigate litter on the property. The fines, especially for commercial owners, need to be a level that gently encourages owners to spend the money to mitigate litter. In addition, the fines need to increase incrementally based the number of repeat violations.
I recommend DPW take cues from the private sector when determining a fine policy. Specifically DPW should conduct a break-even analysis and prepare a profit and loss statement in order to ensure the fines are more than the cost to DPW (if feasible). For example, if the cost to DPW to enforce sanitation at a commercial property is $1000 (based on person-hours, equipment, vehicle, etc), but the fine is only $250, then they are operating at a loss, which isn’t sustainable.
The operations of this division need to be evaluated to ensure the use of vehicles is optimized. I still struggle with the rationale for agency directors to have a dedicated vehicle and for each agency to have a dedicated fleet. Other than positions that require constant travel such as building inspectors or social workers that make home visits, it seems most employees (including directors and executives) can use public transportation during the day. Most government buildings are along rail or heavily serviced bus lines.
I recommend DPW benchmark best practices from neighboring jurisdictions, cities of comparable size, and cities with public transportation systems. For example, the City of Alexandria and Arlington County have a shared-fleet program between different agencies. In addition most of their fleets are Toyota Prius or comparable hybrid vehicles. Implementing best practices will allow the agency to operate efficiently and reduce operating costs.
Friday, April 15, 2011
Here is testimony I submitted to the Committee on Public Works & Transportation for the Department of Public Works.