City Councilor Julia Mejia recently introduced legislation that, if approved, could change how Boston residents drive and get punished for parking violations. She proposed that people be fined at different amounts on the basis of their income, primarily to lessen the financial burden on low-income individuals.
The precarious economic status of low-income residents is already an enormous stress that they must deal with on a daily basis. A flat rate that doesn’t distinguish between varying levels of income and wealth fails to consider how difficult it is for low-income individuals to feed, clothe and generally support themselves. What may be an annoyance for one person could be the deciding factor for whether or not someone eats dinner that night.
And that shouldn’t be the case given the fraught intersection between economic empowerment and access to transportation. In that regard, Mejia’s proposal is not only compassionate, but highly sensible.
Additionally, it seems as though police officers have unofficial ticket quotas that they have to meet by the end of each month. A public servant’s job to generate revenue is not a burden that should fall onto the public’s shoulders. More importantly, it should not damage people’s livelihoods.
This legislation would certainly make police officers more aware of the people they’re ticketing and their financial situations. If that encourages empathy without sacrificing other residents’ safety, the policy can have resounding effects on public trust of the police force.
Furthermore, income-based tickets would create a more proportionate punishment and bolster the original intention of parking tickets. As they currently are, parking tickets are the same charge for vastly different scenarios — again, they should and need to be relative.
For a wealthy person, a $120 fine will be meaningless. The system allows rich people to violate laws because they don’t have to care in the same way. On the other hand, a $120 fine for a low-income individual may mean that they will not be able to pay their rent or feed their children.
Therefore, implementation of an income-based scale will create a more equitable experience of the legal system. The wealthy shouldn’t be able to get away with crimes, no matter how petty, just because they can pay their way out of the punishment. If the fine is high enough, perhaps they might be incentivized to violate parking laws less often.
Everyone is equal under the eyes of the law; the wealthy shouldn’t be entitled to differential treatment. The notion that they are reinforces the unspoken rule that money buys power and influence.
It is precisely because this is a matter of finances that parking tickets must be income-based. A 10-year prison sentence has an equivalent effect on a billionaire as it does on a poor individual. However, a $120 decrease in a billionaire’s disposable income does not equate to a $120 decrease on a poor person’s. A billionaire cannot even spend a $1 million a day and use up all of their wealth by the time they die.
That shouldn’t be the case. Look at all of the obstacles to upward mobility society imposes on low-income individuals. We do not excuse low-income individuals’ violation of the law, but consequences must be equal.