I hate parking tickets. Who doesn’t? Sometimes you take a risk and get a ticket. You deserve that ticket. Other times you think you did everything right but get a ticket anyway. These blindsiding tickets are my focus here.
When I was little and my family celebrated every 4th of July in the mountains, my friend Annie and I used to put firecrackers in cowpies. We lit them and ran like hell. Getting a blindside parking ticket is like walking into an exploding cowpie. It is the opposite of paying it forward. It is a cowpie splattering across your day courtesy of your local government.
A few weeks ago, I parked in a one hour parking zone while I lunched on pizza. As I walked back to my car, I made eye contact with the parking guy and he quickly scuttled away. As he departed, I saw the yellow envelope of a parking ticket tucked into my car door. Cowpied! I was annoyed and confused. I had been gone for less than an hour. I inspected the ticket. The only clue was, “License plate 54-62,” so I knew something was wrong with my plates, but what? I looked at my front plate. It was leaning forward slightly. Still visible to anyone in front of me but leaning forward. I assumed that was the problem and was dumbfounded.
The City of Denver has cowpied me many times. Usually, they get me with street sweeping. It would be the second Wednesday of the month and I would forget. When you hear street-sweepers in the distance, my friends, it is already too late. Street swept once, shame on me, street swept twice — more shame on me. I was dumb to not learn my lesson. But let me tell you about the ticket that really pissed me off. I went to the hospital for a clinic appointment and parked at a meter. When I came out, I got splattered by the yellow cowpie. I was irate. I knew I had paid the meter. A closer look at the meter verified this. I checked the ticket. Swept again! I walked a few cars up and sure enough, there was the street sweeping sign. I bet they rake it in at those meters with the street sweeping. Pretty low, even for them. Because nobody goes to the hospital for fun. Most are patients or are visiting patients and they have more on their minds than parking.
Back to my pizza lunch ticket. I looked up Denver City Ordinance 54-62, which says, “It shall be unlawful for any person to drive, stop, park…any vehicle that has been assigned a license plate or plates, pursuant to Colorado law, unless the license plate or plates assigned to the vehicle for the current registration year is properly attached to and displayed on the vehicle….” An internet search revealed that most people with this type of ticket were not displaying one of their plates properly, such as putting one plate in a back window.
But I had both plates on. What was up? After staring at my back plate for a while, I realized my problem. My car registration renews in December of each year. Are you one step ahead of me? So when I renewed my registration, I accidentally put my new year sticker (“13″) over my month sticker (“12″) instead of my old year sticker (“12″). But was I in violation of the ordinance? My plates did in fact display my “registration year” — just not my month.
I filed a protest and my ticket was reduced from $75 to $25. Did they see my argument or do they offer a reduced fee to everyone who bothers to protest? I paid because it was worth $25 to put the matter behind me. The larger question is, do we want our local governments dropping cowpies on us? We have made the choice to allow this. Government claims they seek only to promote public safety. The street sweeping tickets, they say, are about keeping debris off the streets. Okay, let’s call their bluff. How about an ordinance saying they can only issue street sweeping tickets when there is actual street sweeping? The streets are not swept on every street sweeping day but tickets sure are handed out on every street sweeping day.
The truth is no city government wants to admit they are using parking tickets to raise revenue. Here in Colorado, such a practice might in fact be illegal. So they claim it is all about safety. Like my registration year sticker being over my month sticker? In Denver, parking management has said there are only more tickets because there are more parking officers. So all these new parking officers magically appeared on the streets one morning? Someone decided to hire more parking officers — to get more revenue.
Every company cultivates goodwill. With blindsiding tickets the city spreads ill will. The city cowpies its citizens and ruins our days. Is the added revenue worth the damage to our view of our government?
What can you do? Complain to your mayor, city manager, city council and so forth. They can change policy and the ordinances. Or, when you contribute to their political campaigns, deduct the cost of your most frustrating parking tickets and tell them you are doing so. This will make you feel better and, if enough people do it, it will get their attention.
I’m branching out to get more views so a cross-posting of this commentary will be available on my new Yahoo! Contributor Network page.