Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Can’t figure it out

We have been writing hundreds of parking tickets for snow emergency violations and 24 hour parking, and towing cars left and right. I guess we just don’t have enough of these big snow events for some people to sit up and pay attention to the parking bans. The residential ban violations are particularly troublesome. These require vehicles to be parked only on the side of the street with either even or odd addresses, based on which is specified on a particular day.

In some areas of Lincoln, a snow emergency parking ban violation can prevent the plow from even getting down the center of the street, because there just isn’t enough space. Even if the plow can pass, the offending vehicle is plowed in, and the owner has a big dig on his hands to get it out. When he eventually does, he shall find a fat parking ticket, but the rest of the neighborhood will have to put up with the burial mound all winter long.

Last week I had a meeting with Mayor Beutler, who was concerned by the apparent lack of compliance with the residential parking ban following our first big snow two weeks ago. I told him that there just didn’t seem to be enough fear of enforcement, even though we had issued over 1,100 tickets. I also explained that there are more people than you might realize who do not read the paper, listen to news radio, or watch the nightly newscasts on television. Moreover, in a city of a quarter million, you will always have a few thousand people who at any given time are drunk, high, or just so disorganized that they can’t figure out what day of the week it is, much less comprehend concepts like even and odd, north and east. This Incident Report (lightly edited to protect the identity) is pretty indicative of the problem:

Two big December snowstorms have been a test of our parking enforcement energy, and I think we rose to the challenge. It was a commendable effort by our officers. I don’t have the exact numbers from the Christmas storm yet, but there were stacks of tickets issued, and nearly 80 vehicles towed by the skinny staff that worked over the holiday weekend. With the real parking pros back on duty beginning today (that’s the Public Service Officers), the numbers are sure to take a steep climb. When we have our next major snowfall, I hope the vigorous enforcement causes the inattentive and unmotivated to move their cars from the banned locations, because it’s easier on everyone.

And before anyone starts chewing this bone, let us refresh: the City retains an $8 fee on parking tickets to offset a portion of the cost of enforcement (it certainly doesn't pay the entire cost), the remainder--the fine--all goes to the public school district, a provision in Nebraska's Constitution. Life would be much easier, and the cost to the City much less, if no tickets were necessary whatsoever. Anyone who thinks this is fun and profitable has rocks in their head.

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

If you can, please tow all the cars!!! It's very annoying to drive down a street where it 'used to be two way', now turned into a 'one way' street because of these selfish people who just 'does not care or does not know'. So if I accidently side-swipe a car that is parking illegally, will that be my fault?

Anonymous said...

On a different subject - I just listened to the show This American Life on NPR from weekend before last. It was about Penn State being the #1 party school. Near the end of the program they mention UNL as the school where there was success in reducing binge drinking. They talked about the cooperation between the school and town. Also mentioned was the data that showed what worked and what didn't - apparently other schools don't use or compile data, or the right kind of data to gauge success of their various programs. That we do must make your data crunching heart skip a beat. Didn't know if you knew about this - we come off looking pretty good - or pretty dull if you are into binge drinking as a lifestyle.

Herb said...

Chief: Typo Alert:

Paragraph 3:

"I also explained hat there are more people than you might realize who do not read the paper"

I realize you must, occasionally, "talk out of your hat" but that isn't quite the meaning intended...

:-)

Herb said...

I'm wondering how many of these who receive tickets "didn't think it was their problem", then can't get their car dug out fast enough to file a complaint.

Moral of the story: Darwin may not have been that far off.

JIM J said...

A snow parking law with no teeth has no bite.
Also the dispatch call taker on Dec 24th, about 4 P.M or so was told twice, that a vehicle was last seen going an UNKNOWN direction on Cornhusker. They understood UNKNOWN to be east bound on Cornhusker, and changed the information accordingly.
Also the NEW call taker should let callers finish providing information. Being rude and interrupting a caller who is reporting a dangerous drunk driver is not good public relations. Getting the information WRONG again and again is just plain stupid! It is amazing how accurate they are when an Officer relates information and they relay it on the radio. I am wondering how many other people get "played" with when a call for service gets taken.

Anonymous said...

The real moral of the story:Once again those of that don't keep our heads in the sand and are responsible get to suffer for the willfully stupid people. We get to travel on roads that aren't cleaned as well as they could be and our tax money gets to pay for the damages to their vehicles when they sue the city or make a claim.
The best part is they get to whine about how the system screwed them and pretend to be a victim of something more than their own stupidity.

Anonymous said...

"I also explained that there are more people than you might realize who do not read the paper, listen to news radio, or watch the nightly newscasts on television."

Some don't own or use a computer, either, so they can't go to Interlinc and check emergency parking ban status.

The city is partly to blame for the profusion parking on the street, because they allowed big, old houses to be busted up into multiple apts, and those extra cars have to park somewhere. Oh, the alley, where you're much more likely to be LFA-ed or vandalised, and definitely plowed-in, in the short term? The city also allowed all those duplexes, tri-plexes, 4-plexes, 6-plexes, etc to be built where one house stood before, and a lot of cars come with all those extra residences. All they saw was the property taxes, without thinking about all the other consequences.

In some areas, there are so many cars that it's just impossible to keep half the curbs clear. They'd move them when the snow starts falling, except that there's nowhere to go, the odd curbs are already occupied.

Tell the Mayor to see what he can do about NOT issuing zoning variances and building permits to allow even more of these multi-plexes. We've got too many of them already.

stolee said...

It's not just frustrating for the plowers or the people driving, but people who violate the parking ban also cause annoyance for their immediate neighbors. For instance, my neighbors never remove their cars and I have to dig out five feet of snow to open up the way to my mailbox. Here's what it looked like.

Anonymous said...

Chief,
Do any of the judges sentence juvenile offenders to community service? If they do maybe some of the graffiti artists could work off some of those hours on the end of a snow shovel. They could start by clearing off the snow plow bank behind my car. wink wink

Gun Nut

Anonymous said...

They just DO NOT GET it....Treat the North 27th bridge.......EXTRA!

Anonymous said...

I agree with your point about reading getting the word out through media sources--my family doesn't watch TV. And no radio--mostly recordings and books around these parts.

We do look at the LJS online a few times a day (and other news sources), but there was no mention of the parking ban as it started--certainly not in a prominent place. We found out about the parking ban by noticing the mass exodus of our neighbors' cars and asked one of them about it.

The 10-11 news site seemed to be updated with this information much more quickly--I think we're going to start checking that site on snowy days instead of LJS. But it can be hard to get to news out to everyone.

Anonymous said...

I am not one of the Lincolnites with my head stuck in the sand, nor am I usually a sympathizer for those who are.

BUT - many folks were out of town due to the holiday weekend. The weather caused flight cancellations, interstate & road closures, and very slow traveling. That meant many Lincolnites weren't home in time to shovel their cars out & move them. I stayed in town & narrowly missed beating the plows to my street. It took a long time to get my driveway cleared & dig my car out in order to move it!

I won't argue that tickets aren't warranted. However, I have to wonder how many of the car owners were "selfish people", "willfully stupid", or had a "not my problem" attitude - and how many were (responsibly) staying off of the roads or away from home in another car. Certainly the holiday weekend played a factor.

Anonymous said...

I heard a city employee say on a local news cast, that if your mailbox was destroyed by the snow-plow it was not the cities problem. In other words too bad. Because between the sidewalk and curb is city property. If that's the case I'll hang my mailbox on my house (I'm sure the mailman will appreciate that), and I'll let the city worry about mowing it.

Anonymous said...

Give out more tickets. The more tickets given out the quicker people learn. I didn't know what a parking ban was when I moved here and never got a ticket. It's not that hard to figure out so give them all tickets. Give more tickets.

Anonymous said...

From the LJS article you linked:

And alleys won't be touched.

"We don't remove snow from alleys. We never have," Opfer said.


Well, so much for parking in the alleys to get off the street for a snow emergency. Park in the alley and get walled-in by a 3-foot berm of snow plowed off the street at both alley ends.

Anonymous said...

People were much more ambitious and self reliant years ago. They used to actually get out and use a shovel to move snow. Today they'd rather complaint about how deficient the city's snow removal is rather than help themselves. Remember when kids used to go door to door getting paid to shovel sidewalks? How many kids would put down their ipods and grab a shovel to make cash today?

Grundle King said...

Man stolee, it looks like you put in some work...kudos to you.

I have no gripes about police writing tickets, nor do I have any gripes about police calling in the tow trucks. However, I do have a problem with the tow truck fees, along with all the other fees the towing company invents. Towing companies are NOT part of the judicial system, and are NOT authorized to mete out "punishment" for illegal parking. However, their outrageous fees are just that...punishment. Somewhere along the line, towing companies got the idea that they were somehow officers of the law. The arrogant and cavalier attitudes that many of the companies display should, in and of itself, be enough to warrant a closer look at how they operate. When a company puts a saying like "Where did you park?" on the lift arm of the tow truck, it demonstrates to me that they have gone beyond providing a needed service, to reveling in the fact that they get to ruin someone's day.

Okay...rant off.

BTW, why do the Parks and Rec guys think it's okay to pull snow off the sidewalks and trails back into the streets?

Tom Casady said...

1:29-

I agree with you, people were indeed more reliant. Up until I was about 15 and had a real job, I looked upon snowfall as an opportunity to make money shovelling--as did lots of other kids in the neighborhood.

The whine that amazes me the most is when people complain that the plow came by, and left a ridge of snow in their driveway opening. Of course it did, that's what happens when you drag a blade through a foot of snow. If you happen to have a big drift downwind of your driveway, your ridge of snow will be even larger than most. So? What's their expectation, that an army of city employees with Bobcats will stop and clear each of several tens of thousands of driveways in the city? These same people whine about the whopping 14 cents of their property tax dollar goes to fund the City budget.

Anonymous said...

10,000 cars ar out of town. UNL is not having class now...luck!

ARRRRG!!!! said...

When the weather man says it is going to snow a foot or more it should be common sense that there may be a snow emergency.

Anonymous said...

What would it take to get law changed so the money goes back to the city for these fines? It's nuts the money goes to the school system instead of back into a fund to provide this type of service(s) to the city.
The city attorney will dismiss most of the tickets anyway.

Anonymous said...

"What would it take to get law changed so the money goes back to the city for these fines? "

The State Constitution would have to be amended, and good luck with that long shot. Every public education concern from the teacher's unions on down would lobby against that tooth and nail, because they never think they have enough of your money.

Steve said...

11:23

Snow, or no snow, it is illegal to leave your car parked in the same spot on a city street for over 24 hours. Therefore, those who left town for the weekend with their cars in the street should have gotten a ticket anyway.

Anonymous said...

What happens if your house or appt does not have a driveway for you to pull into? Do you have to keep moving your car every other day depending on what side of the street you can or can not park on? Another poster makes a good point. What if you were out of town for the Holiday and your car was parked in front of your house? My guess is you will come home to find it towed and that is very expensive to get taken care of.

Anonymous said...

I was in Beatrice during a snow storm last year and they had an attachment on their graders that lowered for driveways and intersection and "closed" off the end of the blade and then raised up once they got past the drive to deposit that snow to the side. Obviously that would be a huge expense but might be something to look at for future blade purchases.

Trevor Brass said...

Never a bad idea to fund the kid's equivalent of the IRS ... LPS!

Tom Casady said...

Yes, you would most certainly be expected to move your car every other day. That's the law, as Steve points out, and I don't see that as being a terrible burden on anyone.

What if you were gone over Christmas? You can't legally leave your car parked on the street for multiple days without moving it in the first place, whether it's the dead of winter or the middle of July.

It seems to me that if you live in Nebraska, the potential of a snowfall in December is something one should anticipate. When you go on trip, you take care of your mail, turn down your thermostat, stop the newspaper, take care of the pets, plants, and so forth. What's so terrible about expecting someone to take care of their car, too? I realize some people don't have a driveway, or a parking lot, but there are still ways to assure that your car is provided for legally. Do you have a friend that will let you leave it in their driveway? Will your employer let you keep it in the lot for a few days? If nothing else, you could park it in a long-term commercial lot, at a daily rate that is far less than a cat or dog. When you own a car, it comes with some expenses. I can think of several possible options. I realize all of these require some planning, a little inconvenience, and in some cases a little expense, but so does getting a friend to water your plants, or boarding your Chihuahua at the pet motel.

While I sympathize just a little bit with someone who slipped out to spend Christmas Eve with their folks in Norfolk, and ended up stuck there for four days, on the other hand, this massive storm was predicted for a full week in advance. The warning could hardly have been any longer, more obvious, and ultimately correct!

Steve said...

Very well put, Chief. When people move into a new home (or apartment), one of the things they need to consider is where they are going to park. The fact that many apartments don't provide enough parking is no excuse.

Anonymous said...

I'd point out that if one usually parks on the street, but plans to be out of town for a period of time, one can rent a storage unit at any one of several secure, fenced, CCTV-monitored facilities in and around Lincoln, a unit large enough to "garage" your vehicle. I had done that from time to time back when I didn't have a garage or driveway of my own. It's a hundred bucks a month, or something like that, depending how large of a unit you need. Fenced, outdoor storage is cheaper, of course.

Anonymous said...

KEEP ON TOWING.

Days after the storm passed it was difficult to even get a pickup truck with a plow down a residential street due to the cars parked 4-5 feet from the curb and the resulting "burial" drifts.

It is just lack of respect or willingness to make a bit more effort.

coppertopper said...

I say tow them and ticket!!! I have owned my home here for 17 yrs and this has been an on going problem with the duplex accross the street for those 17 yrs. Although they have off street parking they do not use it. They park directly behind my driveway across the street. The more snow we get the farther out in the street they park. They leave vehicles parked for days with out moving them and never move them during snow bans. After the first big snow they were so far out into the street that I had to scrape my front end of my car to get in and out of my driveway without hitting them. After this last snow and the parking ban went into effect and they didn't move their vehicles and spoke to them about it. After dumb looks huffing and puffing they finaly moved their car so the roads would be cleaned decent when they came through. They parked in front of my house and have not moved them since. They also have out of town tags on vehicles and i know they do not attend school. I have had 4 back surgeries and can not afford to have to go out and scoop out in the roads to get my car in and out of my driveway because the 20 something is too darn lazy to move their vehicles. People please follow the rules and move them and all would be a lot better. It only takes a few minutes and the roads are far nicer and I know that the guys working hard to clear the roads would be thrilled. So I say ticket and tow. There is now excuse for vehicles being left on the streets when they have the parking ban set up to move from one side of the road to the other. I guarentee you that those people that say they don't watch tv or read the news would have no porblem doing so to find out of classes or work is being called off because of the weather.

Anonymous said...

"They also have out of town tags on vehicles and i know they do not attend school."

Drop a dime; I believe that's tax evasion, something for which revenue depts have little tolerance.

Steve said...

CopperTopper:

If you didn't already, you should call the police non-emergency number when your neighbors flaunt the parking laws. You've already confronted them with no satisfactory results. In my opinion, the only way to get people to understand that they need to respect the law and the rights of others is to stand up and tell them (one way, or another). Beating the crap out of them might work, but some people can't do that, and it probably isn't the wisest choice anyway. We pay to have police enforce the laws, so take advantage of it! All the other wussies in your neighborhood will be glad you did.

Anonymous said...

It is all very frustrating to see this all go around like a merry go round. I live near a busy street the plows dump TONS of snow in there dirveways. They cover the fire hydrants the some dumbell goes around placing blue stick near them. Anymore and I will not hae a mail box left, but could honestly care LESS. I pick mine up a a neighbor hood station. Again large vehilcles cannot pass becaus ethe streets were not cleared properly or maybe becasue no one had a place to park their car(s). EVERYTHING appears to be dependent on snow removal an minimization. By the time they come to cler my street everyone has traveled and tromped it down and may have not even bothered. The job they did first time north of fox hollow was disaster by hte school. Instead of bitching, and yes I probably did here too. We need to recognise this is a unique event and will hope fully leard something from it amnd we all need to work to gether to minimize the effects, some of it also cannot be helped.