Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Cash Extractions

There was a newspaper article this morning discussing how the Smallish City is having some bond-rating issues, and how our City Fathers are taking steps to "increase cash reserves" to address this problem.

The article didn't say how, exactly, the cash reserves are bieng increased, but I can tell you one strategy they're employing: sudden, utter ruthlessness on the part of the Parking Divsion. Reports are coming in from all directions of Machiavellian ticketing practices which seem designed to extract every possible dollar from the city's residents.

I myself have had only one brush with this so far: I tried to appeal a $25 parking ticket from my scooter. It had been parked in an out-of-the-way cranny of a large public plaza while I was at work. My grounds for appeal were: (a) the ticket was for parking "on the sidewalk", but I was obstructing no place that one could walk; (b) there were no signs indicating that scooters could not park in that area; (c) several scooter-commuters had been parking in that area for several months without any issue, until the day they suddenly decided to ticket us all; (d) there is no legal place for a scooter-commuter to park for the day downtown (scooters and motorcycles are banned from the parking garages, and there is a 2-hour limit on all street parking.) Anyway, my appeal was summarily denied.

Next, Housemate had her car towed away for accidentally violating a snow "parking ban". This is not unusual, but it is extremely annoying and costly. What was truly maddening, though, is the city did not actually remove any snow from the street that night. Just towed cars and collected money.

Next, the city suddenly started enforcing the one-hour parking limit on our residential street. In order to avoid this limit, you theoretically need a resident parking sticker-- but for many months, if not years, this has not been enforced. Housemate has lived in the neighborhood and parked on the street sticker-less for several years, she says, without incident. She and was not even aware that there was a parking-sticker program. Indeed there are no signs on the street mentioning resident stickers.

Anyway, Housemate returned home from work one day last week to find a $25 ticket. She wasn't even sure what it was for. The next day she put her car in a different place on the street, but came home to two $25 tickets. Now we're hiding her car in the driveway until she can get to city hall to get the stupid sticker. The irony is, she has a parking space at work. But she got tickets at home because she chose to commute on foot.

Next, I heard of some elderly neighbors down the street who got a parking ticket in their own driveway. They were unloading groceries from the trunk; in order to be able to access the trunk without ice and snowbank obstruction, they had briefly left the rear of the car slightly protruding into the sidewalk area. While they were between grocery loads up stairs to their apartment, BAM!-- ticketed.

Then this finale: I was walking home last night and saw a tumultuous confrontation going on between a couple on the street and a parking officer, whose pickup truck was pulled up behind their car. There was a great deal of agitation and shouting. The woman was sobbing "Why are you doing this?!", and appeared to be trying to physically strike out at the parking guy. The man was physically restraining her from doing so. The parking guy was shouting "NO EXCEPTIONS! THERE ARE NO EXCEPTIONS!"

As I got closer, I realized to my amazement that the man was actually Dr. W., a physician colleague from the neighborhood-- a mild-mannered, grandfatherly teddy-bear of a fellow in his sixties-- and the woman was M., Dr. W's diminutive, kind-hearted, grandmotherly wife. As I finally arrived at the corner, Dr. W and the parking guy were both driving their cars away; M. was on the sidewalk tearful and shaking. I went up to ask what was going on. She grabbed my arm, still crying. She explained that she and Dr. W had been parked at the curb for a minute in order to help her 92-year-old mother out of the car in front of the theater, but in the process, the parking guy had come up, started writing them a ticket, and refused to be dissuaded. "She hasn't been out in town all winter, because she can't walk well and the sidewalks are too dangerous with the ice.", M. said. "She just wanted to go to this concert. But they want to ticket us for it."

I'm giving serious thought to moving out of the city.


Blogger brushfiremedia said...

Move. You can save a ton on ridiculous property taxes for which you receive few services as well.

3/24/09, 12:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Revenue by citation is now the norm for most municipalities. Those who live in a small enough community may be able to fight back by exercising their right to vote and making sure their elected officials know how their constituency feels. Those living in larger, metropolitan areas where travel through a dozen or more different communities is a daily occurrence don’t have that power. Many cities will let residents off with a lesser infraction or warning but stick it to any non-residents unfortunate enough to get caught committing some, however minute, civil infraction. One community local to me is not only zealous in their pursuit of revenue they are also creative. They will stage construction equipment next to various roads (with no work being done or workers present, EVER) and call it a construction zone, then proceed to write double fine tickets all day (and night; next door neighbor was cited at 4:00 am on a Sunday on his way to an early morning fishing expedition). They also have a number of “no turn on red” and “no left turn” signs set up near the schools in the community (which isn’t a bad thing) that have the added note “during normal school hours”. They now interpret normal school hours as anytime between 7:00 am (half hour before high schools in the city begin) and 4:00 pm (half hour after the cities elementary schools end). The bad part is that they use their full “normal school hours” definition regardless of which school (elementary, middle or high) a given sign might be near and they apply them any day of the year (weekends, holidays and even summer break). “Yes, we understand it is not a school day, but these are NORMAL school hours.”

3/24/09, 12:43 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Unbelievable! The meter maid who gave the people helping their elderly mother to a show should be ashamed!

3/24/09, 1:36 PM  
Blogger Turboglacier said...

[Just for the record, it was a meter man, not a meter maid.]

3/24/09, 2:20 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3/24/09, 3:21 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Yeah, sorry. I refer to all ticket-writing people as meter maids (probably not politically correct, but whatever.)

3/24/09, 3:22 PM  
Blogger Johanna said...

On my way to the Smallish City last September, I stopped at the tourist information booth in some random New Hampshire town. I got to chatting with the (male) tourism information officer. He proudly told me he was also the town's meter maid. Perhaps the term is like "actor", now gender neutralized?

3/26/09, 1:33 PM  

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