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Municipal Parking Meter Drama Plays Out Politely

One of my hobbies is to read news articles other people write and wonder what the sources didn’t share. Municipal leaders and staff are careful what they say to reporters, because a slip of the tongue can cost them their jobs and/or their reputations. When they talk to a reporter they are as diplomatic and noncommittal as they can be – I don’t blame them. But I entertain myself thinking about the details they aren’t sharing.

In Bridgeport, Connecticut, ctpost.com reports that new camera-equipped parking meters have created a logjam of parking appeals that the local sheriff can’t process unless he stops doing everything else in his job description. The sheriff is not pleased.

Michael Moretti, the elected sheriff appointed by Mayor Joseph Ganim as a hearing officer, denied he quit. “I haven’t decided that yet,” Moretti said. He does want help.

Moretti has been handling appeals on a voluntary basis and he’s taken some hard hits for his efforts. The article suggests the uptick in appeals might have been inspired by a community activist and retired superior court judge named Carmen Lopez. Lopez appealed a ticket earlier this year and while attracting publicity for her cause stated that Moretti had not been appointed properly.

Nobody has been happy with the meters. They have met with resistance every step of the way. Bridgeport leaders have already decreased meter fines from $40 to $20, as well as offering free Saturdays and longer grace periods, in response to criticism.

The mayor’s office has announced appeals hearings will start up again in August and there are discussions about appointing more hearing officers. As city council members talk about going back to old-school parking enforcement, the city is on the defensive to such a degree that they are already adding up the costs of scrapping the meters entirely: $457,000 a year.

My synopsis: city suggests meters; residents object. City installs meters; city forgets to educate residents and hire appeals staff. Sheriff takes heat for aggressive ticketing and slow appeals process; sheriff gets slammed by prominent resident; sheriff decides he’s not putting up with that crap anymore. City looks foolish. Mayor and city council members start to fear for their ratings; mayor and city council members start backpedaling.

That’s just me reading between the lines, though.

Read the article here.

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