Magazine

Point of View

They Got Me, Twice …

By John Van Horn

As you may know, I’ve been running an experiment. I have been either not paying my on-street parking or overstaying when I have been paying. The experiment is to prove that less than 10% of parking violations are ever ticketed. I will admit I have had a few close calls, one being a few weeks ago when I pulled out of an expired meter just as the officer rounded the corner, ink dripping out of his printer.
However, it all caught up with me a few days ago. The city of Beverly Hills (where, by the way, I was interviewing their parking folks for an article on page 14 in this issue of PT) cited me for overstaying a meter. I did, in fact, put money in it but stayed about seven minutes past the due time. The ticket was written three minutes after it clicked to “Validation.”
A few hours later, R and I went to see “Sherlock Holmes” in downtown Culver City, CA. I parked in a slot in the garage that said “one hour only.” The words “I’m sure they don’t check” were ringing in my ears. When we returned three hours later, with a validated ticket I pulled on entrance, there was a citation on my car. Yes, they got me. Culver City does a good job “chalking”. Good for them. And good for Beverly Hills, too. It may have taken a while for them to get me, but they did.
I have paid both $50 fines but still feel good about the experiment.
In Beverly Hills, I park on the street where I got the ticket twice a week and have done so for the past year (gym). This is the first citation I have received, even though there hasn’t been a time that I wasn’t in some type of violation when I returned to my car.
As for my former home, Culver City, I’m not quite so bad. I park there about three times a month, and when I’m in the garage it’s usually after 6 p.m. (no time limit then). However, I have parked on-street probably a dozen times in the last year, and in virtually every case, the meter was in violation when I returned to the car. I would suggest that this still falls well within my 10% rule.
I understand that enforcement isn’t easy. Huge turnover, thick traffic, the vagaries of the law (is there a handicapped placard or not?) and, frankly, often the kindness of the enforcement staff. However, if we are ever to get parking under control, we have to figure out how to deal with scofflaws like me.
In Beverly Hills, my gym has a deal with a parking lot that is in fact closer to their door than where I usually park on-street, and the cost is less than that of an hour’s on-street parking. I’m just too lazy to use it. In Culver City, all I had to do was drive up one story and I would have had unlimited parking. Once again, lazy tells the tale.
My guess is that Beverly Hills has had its last chance at me. The $50 fine most likely has me moving into the lot or filling the meter with enough quarters (or in this case, using my credit card) to cover the 75 minutes I’m away. As for Culver City – the fine folks at IPD designed wonderful parking garages half a block from the restaurants and theaters and certainly I can make it up one flight of stairs ... and I will.
***
Yes, they got me again, and this time it was for jury duty. It’s over; the verdict is in. Yes, he was guilty. It took us about two days to get to the bottom of it. The problem is it seems to me that we are so used to “Law and Order,” “CSI,” “LA Law” (if you are that old), and the like that when reality strikes, we get all perturbed.
The jury spent a lot of time complaining about how little information we had, and what a poor job the police, crime lab and prosecutors did. After all, we had no fingerprints, no DNA, no expert witnesses, no trace evidence. All we had was a 911 tape, and conflicting testimony from the victim, his brother, his sister in law, his cousin, his neighbor, and the defendant.
The arresting officer added little to the mix, nor did the defense’s private detective. It was up to us jurors to take all that and determine, with very little to go on, just who was lying. And we did.
We decided that there were “elements” of truth in all the stories, but also a lot of story-telling going on, on all sides. However, what few actual facts we had (a bullet hole in the ceiling, for instance) told us that obviously something did happen. We just had to use common sense, and the requirements of the law. We must have read and reread the judge’s instructions a dozen times.
In the end, of the seven counts, we found not guilty on two (the most serious) and guilty on five. The defendant will do some time, we were told, and rightly so.
We jurors met with the prosecutor and the defense attorney after the verdict was read. They were open and happy to talk about all the things we couldn’t know during the trial. Both agreed with the verdict.
The defense attorney was realistic. “My client was stupid. He tried to represent himself for the first eight months of pre-trial; then the judge convinced him and I got the case about six weeks ago. It was obvious the first three stories told to the police were not true. I convinced him to tell the truth. Had he done so in the beginning, my guess is that the police and prosecutors would have agreed on a much lesser charge. As it stands, he talked himself into prison. Stupid. People who represent themselves have idiots as clients.”
It was a good experience. As someone commented: “How would you like to be tried by a jury that was made up of all the people who couldn’t figure out a way to get out of jury duty.”
***
As correspondent Mark points out, this can’t be right:
“First off, contrary to a commonly held perception among traders, shoppers were not highly dissatisfied with the quality of parking in the town centre. Spokesman David McGuigan said: ‘In fact, the single most influential reason for not visiting Hexham (UK) was seen to lie in its poorer shopping offer than elsewhere.’ ”
Sure enough. They did a survey and, lo and behold, the reason people didn’t want to shop in this fair community was not because there was poor parking; they actually felt the parking was OK. It was because the shops were not up to snuff.
As you know, I have been saying this for years. There simply is no substitute for good marketing, good products, and great shops and stores. If you build it, they will come.

Article Abstract from February, 2010




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