Portland approves crackdown on disabled parking scofflaws

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PORTLAND — People who misuse handicapped parking permits could be slapped with $200 fines, after the City Council on Monday approved an ordinance that allows parking officers to write tickets for tampering with the tags.

The new law targets those who deliberately change placard expiration dates in an effort to illegally use handicapped parking spaces. The practice is “a fairly common problem,” according to a Sept. 23 memo from Trish McAllister, the city’s neighborhood prosecutor.

“(Parking officers) even report cases where people take a dead relative’s hang tag and use it for years,” McAllister said.

The tags are issued to disabled drivers by the state Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Under state law, alterations are illegal.

But enforcement has been “almost impossible,” Councilor Ed Suslovic told the council. That’s because a police officer must personally issue a summons to the offender.

The new law allows parking officers, who are more likely to discover the doctored tags, to leave a ticket on the windshield.

The council voted 6-0 to approve the ordinance, with Councilors John Anton, Cheryl Leeman and Nicholas Mavodones absent.

In other business, the council heard a first reading of an ordinance that would create a 39-foot, protest-free buffer zone around reproductive health care facilities, such as the Planned Parenthood clinic at 443 Congress St. The clinic, which performs abortions, has been the site of weekly protests that some say harass and threaten patients.

The council’s Public Safety, Health and Human Services Committee on Oct. 8 referred the proposed ordinance to the full council, which is expected to hear testimony and vote on it Nov. 18.

William Hall can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or whall@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @hallwilliam4.