When parking enforcement puts a boot on your car, after you pay off your tickets and get the key to remove it, it’s incumbent on you to return the boot within 24 hours or its considered theft. That’s always rankled me. If I were headed to return a boot and I saw a police car parked illegally, I’d be tempted to slap the boot on, flee to Canada, and change my name to Jean-Pierre O’Clanahan. (Now, to be clear, I would never actually do this — even though it would make a great episode of Parking Wars — if for no other reason than I’m sure I’d never figure how to get it on the wheel.)
The point is — even if it’s legally justified — when the city places a demand on you, especially one with a quick, uncompromising deadline, it’s easy to resent the feeling of coercion. That must be how a few Baltimore City homeowners are feeling right now. They’ve been unknowingly receiving erroneous tax credits from the city for several years, and are now being required to cough up the total or face stiff penalties and interest. And get this, the city wouldn’t even be aware of these errors were it not for an investigative piece in The Baltimore Sun.
The affected homeowners, who have received in error anywhere from $1,700 to $9,200 over the course of several years, are being told to pay it all back in 30 days, or else. C’mon, city! Is the fact that this was largely your error any kind of mitigating factor here? You act like they went and stole the total in cash off your coffee table. The money isn’t just sitting in their homes in large dollar-sign bags while they figure out how to launder it.
If you’re one of these people who’s about to settle up with the city with a big honking check, promise me you’ll write something really classy in the memo line.