Parking enforcement officer writes ticket for after 8 – before 8

Just watched as a neighbor of mine got a ticket for parking in an after-8 a.m. truck loading zone along Perry Street in downtown Cincinnati (even though this alley hasn’t been used for loading trucks in probably 30 years). Only problem was it wasn’t after 8 a.m. – even when the officer handed the neighbor her ticket.

I watched out my bedroom window as she showed the officer her cell phone (which carries a signal from her wireless service that maintains the exact real time, lapse a 10-30 seconds). She was rather upset – the ticket costs $50 – but the officer would not even budge.

So, I went out and said I looked on the two computers I had open and on, both with automatically updated Internet time (also very accurate) and my cell phone and said she was right and he was wrong. His response? Look at the ticket.

She showed me the ticket. “8:00 a.m., April 2, 2010.” No Day-After April Fool’s Day joke here. I told him that even right then, as we “discussed” the ticket, it was only 8:01 a.m. so there is no way it was after 8 a.m. when he wrote the ticket.

I encouraged the woman to go to the ” parking court.” Court, in this case, is a closet with a hearing officer (“judge”), an appointee who also works as a lawyer someplace else, who almost always lets parking violaters off the first time they appear before him (or sit next to him, as is the case in Hamilton County) and usually halves fines if you take the time to go on subsequent visits. I know this from personal experience – I had a few “surprise” tickets when I lived in Over-the-Rhine. The surprise was I never got them, likely removed from the windshield by some board passer-by (and we had more than our share of those types). The excuse took with the judge¬† because I had actually paid, on time, other tickets over the years.

But this all comes at a cost: The experience for those living in downtown Cincinnati. It is one we cannot afford right now. And this is a stupid way for the city to make up expenses in a gigantic budget hole.

In an effort to beef up parking enforcement, officers (the parking kind, not police) have been armed with electronic ticket-writing devices that dramatically speed up the process. There apparently also have been several new hires in the past 18 months or so, making the force larger than it has been in recent years (this is an observation). Couple that with a more than doubling of the original $14 fine (as it was until 2005, late, as I recall) to the now $35 fine for parking at an expired meter, and I think we have ourselves a grand way for the city to make money for itself.

Good. No new taxes, right? But it comes at the expense of creating massive discontent about living downtown. Parking spaces – like on Perry Street – still reflect an industrial alleyway where trucks needed to park throughout the day. Now, it’s low-hanging fruit for parking enforcement folks and the bane of people who live in the former warehouses and manufacturing facilities now converted into townhomes, condos and apartments – the people who are making downtown work again.

Should parking on the street be made legal for anyone? No, but there are best practices from other cities of similar size that allow for residents to park on the street near their residence.

Cincinnati has a similar ordinance. Why haven’t you heard of it? It’s pretty fascinating, actually. Passed in the early 1980s, but it has never been used once, because the burden for residents to enact is nearly insurmountable. Why? Who knows for sure. It was either an extremely poor piece of legislation or doing exactly what it was intended to do. I have (or had) a copy of the ordinance, and some accompanying complaints by current and former Council members, and will track that down and discuss that in a future post.