This is a no-brainer.
The city is getting tough on users of its services who have racked up nearly $1 billion in unpaid fines and fees, unveiling an aggressive collection program that is expected to make frequent use of litigation.
Parking ticket scofflaws, building code violators, and anyone who has ridden in a city ambulance and not paid should expect to get a testy letter demanding payment within the next month, and perhaps even a lawsuit, city officials said Wednesday. A driver who has not paid parking tickets may find his vehicle booted at the airport. Applicants for a permit may be rejected if they have a long overdue water bill. Unpaid debts will be referred to collection agencies and credit bureaus will be contacted, Mayor Annise Parker said.
“We cannot afford to leave any money out on the table, so we’re going to go out and collect it,” Parker said.
The only question I have is why haven’t we done this before now?
City Attorney David Feldman, who spearheaded the city’s Collections Task Force, said the key to increasing the city’s collections is filing suit.
“It’s all about leverage,” he said. “The leverage we have to put into the system that hasn’t been there before is the threat of litigation.”
Feldman said Houston is the only major city in America that does not have a centralized collection system. Six contractors collect fines, fees and overdue bills issued by 13 different city departments. In many cases, one department is not aware of the collections efforts of another, Feldman said.
“We are all over the map,” he said. “If we could bring this together, we can do a much, much better job.”
You can see a presentation of Feldman’s report to the city here. This is exactly the sort of project that I expected from the Parker administration. I look forward to seeing what kind of result they get from it.