*** RYAN TATE: Shocking secrets--revealed! ***





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Recent San Francisco Business Times stories

Table set at Ferry Building (Jun. 6)

S.F. out to rattle chains (May. 30)

S.F. plan sets goal of 10,000 homes (Jun. 27)

Stanford's new senior class (Jun. 13)

Is San Francisco's housing crisis over? (Jun. 20)

Stanford Shopping Center on block (May. 23)

Insurers locking up condos (May. 23)

Developer makes bold housing play (May. 16)

Williams-Sonoma revs web (May. 9)

Residential Real Estate Deals of the Year (May. 9)

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Thursday, September 18, 2003

Swimming at SF Aquatic park this morning, in 55-degree water and a Quintana Roo wetsuit, I stopped to float near an apparent Dolphin Club member, an older guy in nothing but swimming shorts, goggles and cap. He looked at me, and in a blustering Irish brogue, asked, "So where's your HAT?" ...


... I had lost my neoprene cap at some point in the last few months and only noticed this morning, and decided to go in without it. But, buddy, where's your WETSUIT? :--)



Paid $471 in Berkeley parking tickets. Six Berkeley parking tickets.

In Berkeley, if you wait more than a few weeks to pay your tickets, the value eventually triples. It's a truly hideous regressive tax on people who can least afford it. After all, if you're parking on the street, it means you don't have the dough for your own parking spot, or for a pay-garage while you shop/go to the movies/eat/go to class/run up to your apartment. And if you're late in paying, it's probably because you don't have $44 free at the end of the month. That's the recently-raised cost of a ticket in Berkeley. Before it inflates.

My tickets are for things like being too long at a meter on a Saturday, because I didn't feel like taking a half hour to park on Friday night, or being in a yellow zone at 8 am. These are real infractions, and I don't mind paying $20, $30. I mean I mind, but I can see where it's neccesary if parking regulation s are to have any teeth. At $44 I start to get mad. And when you triple that due to lateness, I feel I have been attacked criminally.

No bank or other private entitiy could EVER get away with charging a 200% late fee for paying a bill a month or two late. I mean, it's actually illegal. It's called predatory lending, or usury, and there are laws against it. They can charge a flat monthly late fee on credit cards, like $30, if you don't pay the bill at all. But that charge is flat, so if you carry a $30 balance it's 100%, but if you carry a $2,000 balance it's 1.5 percent. Also, it assumes the concept of *minimum payment*, and the city allows no installment payment of tickets over long periods, as with a credit card. Finally, the debt based on completely voluntary spending actions that produce immediate value for the customer, so if you are late in paying you deserve to really get dinged. A ticket is purely punative, producing zero value. And it is often unexpected.

In summary, people absolutely should pay their tickets, but 200% markup for being late is usury.

I have been mulling some time a ballot initiative in the city of Berkeley to cap late fees on parking tickets at 50 percent. These fees hit people who can afford them the least, working people, the poor, students. The rich Berkeley hills residents use pay lots in the city and their own private garages at home. I have personally paid close to $1500 in parking tickets in the time I have been in Berkeley, and during that period I was either a student or in my first three years in the workforce making a journalists' salary.

If you are interested in helping me draw up the language of the initiative, in helping to gather signatures, or even if you just know stories about poor people getting gouged on tickets, email me! In a couple of years I'd like to make this a reality.

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