Notes from Big Ben …
The Chinese, the West End and Dementia
By Peter Guest
Beware the ‘she dragon’ China has a demographic problem. Its one-child policy and traditional attitudes toward female children mean that a whole generation has grown up with too few women. The law of unintended consequences means that many Chinese women, instead of demurely waiting for Mr. Right to come along, have been empowered by their situation and have taken control of their own lives.
I remember a British friend working in Shanghai telling me that practically all the locals in her office were women who left their husbands home (if they had bothered to get one) to do the cooking and laundry whilst the girls went out to earn the money and have fun.
Given this, I was surprised to see that the Hebei Tiancheng Enterprise Group in Shijiazhuang, China, has dedicated one of the three parking structures in its new Wonder Mall exclusively to women. The lot has three features “especially targeted to women,” The Wall Street Journal reported.
First, the width of each parking space is about 3.2-3.3 meters “so that even when the doors of two neighboring cars are all fully open, they won’t hit,” according to the designer. This means 50 cars can be accommodated in a parking lot that would normally house around 100.
Second, the car park is painted in pink and purple to make it cozy, and each parking stall has three lights. Two car park walls are painted with the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac so the women parkers don’t get lost in such a large space.
And, third, just to make sure, the ladies will be guided to a parking slot (so difficult to maneuver in just 3.3 meters) by six dancing parking attendants!
The leader of the group’s design team is a Mr. Wu, who seems to have a rather traditional attitude toward women and their ability to control a car. I suspect that if some of the women drivers of China get their hands on Mr. Wu, another tradition might be revised – that of eunuch!
It’s a recession, so let’s make it harder for the local traders
The city of Westminster, UK, is at it again. There is a recession, but the good old boys at City Hall haven’t noticed. In the West End – the theatre and restaurant quarter – meters and some restricted streets become free after 6.30 p.m.
Westminster has just announced proposals to change the rules so that charges and restrictions will apply until midnight, meaning that someone who comes to spend the evening at a show or eatery will now have pay more than £20 for an evening’s parking. Not likely to promote trade. They also are increasing meter charges. Not surprising the West End theatres and restaurants are not happy bunnies.
Now, I know what JVH says about free parking, and to an extent I agree, but the situation is rather different here. It’s about money. Charges are being raised to “harmonize” with adjacent boroughs, but when the other boroughs had lower charges, they weren’t brought down. Meter charges are said not to go above inflation (less than 5%), but in one zone they will double.
The City Council proposes that residents with parking permits would be exempt from the new enforcement structure, but that’s not legal. True, they can opt to let a resident park on a meter, but they can’t have a no-parking restriction that applies to one type of car but not to another. The government explained this more than 30 years ago. Councilor Danny Chalkley, Westminster Council’s cabinet member for city management, even manages to link the change to the London Olympics in 2012, but the truth seems to be rather simpler.
The council, which has one of the lowest rates (local tax) in London, is looking for an extra £14m, and the parking account is an obvious target. I wonder just how many more times the government and the courts will have to tell councils that they can’t operate parking to make money before the message will sink in?
Editor’s note: Don’t faint, Peter, but I agree with you on the West End parking fiasco. This is a classic case of raising rates to make money, not to provide better parking. The free market isn’t working; it’s the ability of the city to collect money. It’s just another way to tax folks. JVH
Oh, for God’s sake!
Dennis Martin from Worthing is 82 years old and has dementia. In November, his parking permit came due for renewal, but he messed up the paperwork. He’s not driving anymore, but his car is parked on the road. Apparently when he returned the renewal notice, he forgot to enclose his disabled driver permit.
As a result, his car started getting ticketed; he didn’t know because he is housebound. By the time other family members realized what was happening, he had more than $3,500 in parking fines. Appeals to NSL, the council’s on-street parking contractors, have got jobs-worth responses.
And despite explaining the situation, supported by doctor’s letters, his niece, who is trying to help resolve the matter, has been told the only way to avoid the charges is for her to attend a separate hearing for each of the 36 tickets in turn.
Well, there seems to be several things wrong here.
First, if a ticket is appealed, the law says that the final decision is with the council, not their contractors, so where is the council in all this? Second, if the adjudicator cancels the first ticket – and they almost certainly will when he hears the circumstances – they are going to go with precedent and cancel all the others, so why keep taking Mr. Martin back to the adjudicator when the outcome is so predictable? Third, when was a contractor’s reputation or a municipality’s good name ever improved by beating up an invalid “because we can”?
I think that Westminster has completely lost the plot. In a blog, JVH reported that Westminster had been challenged over the legality of their diplomats’ parking spaces because they had followed the legally laid-down process in order to create the bays. They are being challenged to repay tickets issued to other drivers on these bays on the grounds that the restrictions had no legal status.
Westminster’s response: “If any of our diplomatic bays were not approved, this was an oversight that has since been corrected. However, no reasonably observant person could have thought that these bays were not solely reserved for diplomats.” Well, no, they weren’t, not if you haven’t done the paperwork. The signs are just litter; they have no status and no meaning.
This from the borough, which a few months ago when told by an adjudicator that their signs weren’t legal so they couldn’t enforce their parking, simply said, “We don’t agree” and carried on with an unlawful activity. The law is not optional.
Peter Guest is PT’s correspondent on all things European and Middle East. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Article Abstract from March, 2010