13 Investigates: Portland owed millions in unpaid parking tickets

13 Investigates: Portland owed millions in unpaid parking tickets story image
PORTLAND (WGME) - A CBS 13 investigation discovers millions of dollars in unpaid parking tickets owed to the city of Portland. Our findings come as Portland wants to increase the city budget by raising property taxes. So we wanted to know why not go after the millions of dollars of parking debt drivers already owe? We found collecting can be complicated.

Parking enforcement officers admit parking tickets are painful but say they're necessary to boost business in the downtown and Old Port areas of the city.

"The reason we have metered parking is to create turnover parking. We want it so when people come downtown, there's a higher probability of finding a space," Parking Manager John Peverada told us.

An On Your Side investigation found every year, tens of thousands of parking violators in the city just ignore their tickets. Bookkeeping records obtained by CBS 13 show the city is owed a huge amount of money in unpaid tickets - $3,730,745. That's 171,565 unpaid tickets since 2008.

We learned the city's options are limited for collecting that money. They can't do much until you have 3 or more unpaid tickets, then you can get towed or booted.

"The boot is a large immobilizing device that goes on the tire of the car and doesn't come off until the person pays outstanding tickets. So that's an incentive to getting people to pay," Peverada said.

City leaders tried twice to get lawmakers to tie unpaid parking tickets to vehicle registrations and driver license renewals: pay your tickets, or get off the road.

"The legislature has been very resistant to do that. There's a complete divide between how vehicles are operated and where they're parked," Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said.

Dunlap told us, like many things, it really just comes down to money and politics.

"You're talking about a revenue stream the state has no control over, and the state will assume much of the political responsibility for," Dunlap said.

Our research found several states make violators pay parking tickets before renewing a registration or drivers license including Massachusetts and New York.

Even without that, the city is able to collect about $2 million a year in parking tickets, which goes into the city's general fund to help offset property taxes. That collection rate is about 75% of the tickets handed out.13 Investigates: Portland owed millions in unpaid parking tickets
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