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Point of View

Video Citations, Parking Therapy, Talking to a Wall

John Van Horn

I just don’t buy it. The UK is going to authorize local municipal authorities to issue parking tickets using video. In other words, they can watch a parking spot by video, and if a certain car is seen to have overstayed its welcome, they can mail the owner a ticket. They also are allowing enforcement officers to write a ticket without putting it on the windshield. Just mail it in.
This is absurd. I have mentioned this before, but the whole idea of a parking ticket is deterrence. Getting a ticket five days or more after the fact deters nothing and only makes people madder. If I’m standing there and see the ticket under my windshield wiper and then look at the sign and realize that I broke the rules, I can be angry, but actually only at myself. When I’m home going through my mail and find a ticket and I can’t even remember where I was five days ago, I will immediately get my dander up over “Big Brother” and the like.
This just isn’t good policy. Period. But it’s typical of someone sitting in an office somewhere trying to come up with an “idea” to raise more revenue, the parking public be dammed. If cities want more money, charge more to license a car, but don’t do it by increasing fines and using all sorts of nefarious means to collect the money.
Along the same lines, I have learned that those red-light and speed cameras are getting hit hard by the courts. Often they are out of calibration and in some cases work too well. One city noted that they weren’t getting as many fines because people knew the cameras were there and didn’t speed or run the red lights. “We weren’t collecting enough to pay for the cameras.”
Well, la-di-da. Here’s proof of what we knew all along. The purpose of these suckers wasn’t to save lives or enforce the law; it was to collect money. Our government just has to get out of this money-grabbing mode. If it doesn’t ... well, remember the reason for the Boston “Tea Party.” It was a hell of a lot more about taxation than about representation.
***
Even the comics couldn’t bring me back. In a recent Home & Garden section of the LA Times, there was a freelance column by Joe Robinson, titled “When Parking Gets Personal.”
The gist of it is that in residential neighborhoods, people are at one another’s throats because they are, can you believe it, parking on-street in front of the neighbor’s house. This is due to the “fact” that Americans are buying too much “stuff” and it’s filling the garages. Most people don’t use their garages, and the result is open parking warfare.
The solution – hire a shrink. Yes, hire a mediator to come in and mediate your problem with your neighbor. For $100 an hour, subsidized by the city, you can take the nincompoop next door who is parking in your petunias downtown and the two of you will leave in an hour singing “Kumbaya” and begin living in parking heaven. Give me a break.
There is only one real, fair, completely reasonable solution for this problem: Charge for on-street parking in residential areas. Nothing will motivate residents to clean out and use their garages than a monthly bill for $50 for on-street parking. It also might prod them into getting rid of that junker in the driveway so they can park their “other car” off-street.
But only in La La Land would the city come up with an idea of having “conflict resolution” available for neighbors who simply are too lazy to throw away a bunch of junk in their garage or have a periodic yard sale.
Pass the Advil.
The then-head of parking in Fresno, CA, was fired in 2006 for sexual harassment. He supposedly asked an employee to raise her shirt in exchange for $300 in city funds. She did. She also went to the city and complained. The city paid her an additional $150,000 and fired the parking director.
Oh, it doesn’t stop here. Robert Madewell, who had worked his way up through the ranks to run the parking, maintenance and landscaping department for the central California city, was put on trial in March on four felony counts, including sexual harassment, accepting $6,200 in baseball tickets in exchange for lower parking rates for the team, and nepotism (contracting with his brother to do some research, parking related).
The legal wizards in Fresno, the raisin capital of the world, went to trial and couldn’t even convict him on the baseball ticket charge, which he freely admitted.
When Madewell became head of parking, the city was netting 400K a year. In 2006, it netted $3 million. The deal he cut with the local ball club gave him the ability to pass out tickets to his employees and enhance morale. As for his brother – the problem was nepotism, not the contract. For all I know, his brother was an expert in holding car shows on unused parking lots.
Obviously, there wasn’t enough smoke here to fan the flames in a jury’s heart.
Oh, my comment on the sexual harassment. If he did it, Madewell should be drawn and quartered. However, this is a most difficult crime to prove, and it is usually settled, as in this case, out of court with everyone agreeing to keep quiet and a lot of money being paid to someone. I just wish there was a better way to deal with folks who use their authority to ply favors …
***
We are seeing more and more of this: common sense – even directed at oneself. According to the Republican-American newspaper of Waterbury, CT, merchants in the village of Seymour are concerned about their parking and know who causes the problem – the merchants. Read on:
Larry Foster hasn’t opened his shop on Bank Street yet, and he said he already knows the “parking games” that get played in downtown Seymour.
Looking out of the window of his new store, Daddy’s Goods, Foster said he can count how many cars parked on the street are owned by local business owners. Tapping on the side of a cash register he installed over the weekend, Foster admitted that he wasn’t parked in the municipal lot two blocks away while he unloads heavy objects into the store.
“If everyone who either owned the shops or worked in the shops parked in the municipal lots, there really wouldn’t be that much of an issue parking,” said Foster.
Complaints about downtown parking problems — an almost daily issue on the minds of many business owners in the four or five downtown blocks — have crept up again. Community Police Officer Joseph DeFelice told the Board of Police Commissioners that he had fielded several complaints (in February) from merchants and professionals.
Couldn’t have said it better myself.
However, the Jackson County Chronicle reports that businesses in downtown Black River Falls, WI, are in a quandary. They admit that business owners and employees park downtown and take the spaces, but they don’t want tickets written because “ticketing is destroying downtown businesses.”
So let me parse this for those of you for whom it isn’t clear. The downtown businesspeople are parking in front of their stores and taking parking space so it can’t be used by customers; however, when the police try to enforce the rules, they complain that the police are destroying the downtown businesses. Huh?
This is one of the problems with on-street parking availability in downtown cores. The other – and I can almost guarantee you this is the case in Black River Falls – is that they don’t charge for parking downtown. They probably have a “two hour” limit or some such rule, and that, in itself, is difficult if not impossible to enforce.
I have to agree with the head of the downtown merchants association who said that talking about the problem to businesspeople is “just like talking to a wall.”

Article Abstract from May, 2008




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