Michael Dukakis lost his bid for president in 1988, but he can declare victory in his latest campaign — against parking scofflaws in Westwood.The parking clean-up effort was dubbed "The Dukakis Project." The former Democratic presidential nominee was able to convince officials to make a change by arguing that the city was out of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. That got the city attorney's attention -- can't let the wheelchair lobby come calling with their disability rights activists and attorneys!
The former Massachusetts governor has been at the center of a more than two-year battle against the longtime practice of "apron parking" in the neighborhood west of UCLA known as North Village. There, parked cars spill out of apartment driveways and straddle sidewalks and streets.
"It's a disaster," said Dukakis, who teaches public policy at UCLA and lives part-time in the neighborhood. "Beyond being illegal, it's dangerous. You get two SUVs with their rear ends sticking out into the street, and you end up with a one-way road. It's time to end it."
Los Angeles city officials are now listening to Dukakis and the other critics of apron parking. As soon as January, parking enforcement officers will begin aggressively ticketing cars that partly block streets and sidewalks.
The campaign is expected to leave many residents scrambling for parking. There are only 857 legal curb spaces in North Village, but about 5,700 vehicles belonging to residents. The demand gets far worse when students commuting to UCLA comb the streets for parking spots.
Though apron parking is illegal, Los Angeles officials have allowed the practice in the neighborhood for decades because of the parking crunch.
But Dukakis argues that apron parking is dangerous. He has pleaded his case to city leaders and even admonished parking enforcement officers on the streets.
Dukakis told one officer who was ticketing a car in the red zone that she was missing the other illegally parked cars down the street."
I said, 'You're tagging this guy because he's over the red line, but what about those 15 cars up there parked illegally?' " Dukakis said.
"She said, 'I know, but there's not enough parking up here.' " He told her that maybe those parked illegally should take the bus.
"She looked at me like I had 10 heads or something," Dukakis said.
I like Dukakis, but I'll never forget his 1988 ride in a tank,where looking like Mickey Mouse, he further consolidated the Democratic Party's image as soft on defense.
Dukakis' Wikipedia entry is here.