Point of View
A Cheerful Thief, A Clueless Editor, Too Much Free Parking
By John Van Horn
Elaine was cheerful and well-liked. The town of Middleton, CT, was stunned when it learned that she had stolen $1,060 over a three-month period. Elaine was placed on administrative leave, and has since announced her retirement. She will receive retirement benefits.
Elaine had worked as a parking attendant for the city for 24 years. If we assume that she had been stealing before the last three months, she had stolen about $4,000 a year, or nearly $100 grand. Not bad for perky, cheerful Elaine. By the way, she made almost $16 an hour, plus benefits, making her one of the highest-paid parking attendants in the country.
I love it. The cops realized there was a problem when Elaine went on vacation and the take increased while she was gone. They then installed a CCTV camera and caught her in the act and found evidence in her trash at home. Now that's good police work. My guess is that if all parking operators had the courage to arrest, indict and convict thieves like Elaine, there would be a lot fewer such problems.
I'm told that what typically happens in these cases is that the attendant is fired. That's probably because they don't have the persistence of the Middleton police. Those folks knew what they were about. In four days, they had enough video evidence to get their warrant. This is the stuff that great parking stories are made of.
In response to my comment in the blogosphere about automated parking, someone asked: "What happens if someone loses their ticket - how do they find the cars?" I never considered that issue. Of course, in contract-only locations like Hoboken, NJ, it's not a problem, because attendants can search the computer system for the person's card number and recall it manually. But what happens in an automated daily facility?
I come up to the garage for the first time, get a ticket, which is, I suppose, connected to my car and where it is in the garage. I leave, lose the ticket and come back two hours later. Now what? Anybody got a clue?
I wish I could say that this happens only in California, but I'm sure there are like issues elsewhere, anywhere government meets parking. Take a look at this one:
The community of Isla Vista, in which UC Santa Barbara is located, wants to institute a permit program and pay-parking program. The problem is that UCSB students are dodging the fees and parking in the local community and in the free-parking area near the beach, thus keeping visitors and residents from parking. The beach area is jammed, and no one can park there and gain access to the beach.
So Isla Vista has proposed charging for parking near the beach and has set up a permit program. Now I would prefer a pay-parking program everywhere, including the neighborhoods, but there you go. The Shoupistas aren't going to win this one.
Enter the California Coastal Commission, the group that must approve anything that happens within 1,000 feet of the mean-tide line, and that includes, it seems, parking controls. In its wisdom, the commission held up implementation for goodness knows how long while it reviewed the plan. Of course, it will finally approve, with changes. The changes? There has to be enough free parking near the beach so folks will continue to have good access. Huh??!! Let's see, there is free parking now, and the place is so jammed that no one can get in. So they want a control program with free parking so people can park there.
"Rodeo Cracks Down on Handicapped Parking" - I saw this headline and found it priceless.
I have been working with art director Shelly Brown and some "outside" consultants to help give PT a bit of a new look. We are 10 years old, and every few years we have changed the way we present ourselves. I thought it time to look a bit more professional. I have learned about kerning, pull-quotes, graphic elements and headline styles.
Beginning with this issue, you will see some changes, mostly subtle. In fact, I think the changes will be more of a "feeling" than a major redo. At least that's what we are going for.
Also, we are continuing our revamping of our Web site, adding banners and other advertising bits to help keep Heidi and Shiloh in kibble. As the media industry moves relentlessly from paper and ink to broadband, we want to be sure we are right there as it happens.
Webmaster Suda Skyrus has been making changes over the last six months. She has gotten nothing but compliments. Her goal was to move away from the style that looked like PT Barnum upchucked on the screen and give you something that was easy to negotiate and clearly provides the information you need. I think she succeeded.
By the way, this page was set in a new typestyle, closer kerning, and a new headline type - let me know what you think.
Article Abstract from April, 2006