Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Towing of woman's car in DC focuses attention on abuse of accessible parking spaces

From The Examiner in DC:

Martena Clinton's (pictured) front page tale-of-woe about getting her Lexus towed from a handicapped parking space during a speech by President Obama received a lot of negative reaction Monday that Clinton probably wasn't seeking.

The reason: She isn't handicapped.

Police had moved her 1994 Lexus from a handicapped space in front of the Washington Convention Center to a spot a block away as a security precaution because of Obama's presence at the event. In a Washington Post article, Clinton complained that her car was lost for an entire day. Buried deep in the Post story was Clinton's admission that the handicapped driver tag she used was not hers.

That struck some advocates for the disabled as karmic.

"It couldn't happen to a more deserving person," Reston Accessibility Committee's Ken Fredgren said. "I'm sorry for her inconvenience, but there are millions of us who run into an inconvenience every time someone takes one of those spaces."

Russ Holt, a wheelchair user and president of Access Information Inc., called her actions "brazen."

"It's almost like they're glorifying it, but maybe she's getting her comeuppance. She was cheating when she did that," said Holt, who successfully sued the District in 2006 to recognize out of state handicapped placards after numerous World War II veterans had their cars towed at the opening of that war's monument in D.C.

In the Post story, Clinton said she and friend Gardine Tiggle emerged from the Washington Convention Center at 11:30 p.m. Saturday to learn her car had been moved.

Clinton admitted she was using a tag that she said belonged to her husband, who had recently suffered a stroke. When reached by phone at her Randallsville, Md., home, Clinton told The Washington Examiner that she had no comment about why she parked in the space reserved for people with disabilities.

Several hundred Post readers commented on the paper's website with a majority upset with Clinton.

"Martena Clinton seems not to be aware that it is illegal to park using a handicapped tag when the only person in the car is not disabled. Maybe someone should tell her and then give her a big, fat ticket," a typical responder said.

Clinton told the Post she waited until 1:30 a.m. while police searched the area for her black 1994 Lexus. An officer helped Clinton and Tiggle find a hotel room for the night. She found the car Sunday afternoon.

D.C. authorities did not say whether they would cite Clinton. It's a $250 to $500 fine for parking in handicapped parking zone, according to D.C. police. It's unclear whether Clinton obtained the parking tag from the District. But making a false statement on a government application for a D.C. handicapped tag can cost a person a $1,000 fine or 180 days in jail.