Guest Columns

HUDSON: MY DAY IN PARKING COURT

I protested, but the traffic court ref in Denver didn’t seem to care at all

Contributing Columnist

Denver residents should be thankful that Mayor Bill Vidal has closed 75 percent of next year’s municipal budget deficit. His success may prevent the Hancock administration from considering Doug Linkhart’s proposal to auction off the city’s parking revenues to a private collection firm. My daughter lives in a California municipality that has taken this road, and, while their parking revenues are up, this windfall has only been achieved by unleashing a rabid army of ticket writers who receive commissions on their daily volume of infractions. They are incentivized to enforce the most obscure provisions of local parking and motor vehicle codes, including citations for cracked windows, missing mirrors, wheel distance from the curb, as well as remaining at your meter for more than two hours even when you have paid up. You get the idea.

I first realized the Hickenlooper administration was balancing its budget with parking revenues in May of last year. I was shoveling nine inches of snow off my walk when I noted a parking enforcement jeep headed my way, writing street sweeping tickets down the opposite side of the street. There wasn’t one chance in a million that an attempt would be made to sweep the street that day or the next. The heavy, wet, slushy, spring snow would have broken the sweepers down within a block or two. Nonetheless, tickets were being slapped on every vehicle. When I crossed the street to inquire why the city was enforcing the ordinance under such circumstances, the parking officer informed me, with a shrug, that she was simply, “…following orders.”

I pointed out that it was just this kind of malicious enforcement that causes many citizens to detest government. All this comes to mind because of my own recent trip to the parking referee court in the Wellington Webb building. My primary concern was a bizarre ticket I received in North Cherry Creek for parking 69 inches from a curb cutout. I paced it off, and it seemed more like six feet from my rear bumper to the sidewalk, but so what? Well, it seems that unless the city marks the curb with a meter, or a parking sign (many of which leave far less than six feet from a curb cutout), you are required to leave twenty feet between your vehicle and any cutout. The referee was good enough to inform me that this is a little known parking provision and that I would be a smarter parker going forward.

I asked what I could do to report the situation and request that the location be posted as a “No Parking” zone since there is a parking lot cutout as well, and no vehicle can park along this section of curb without violating the ‘little known’ Denver ordinance. I was informed that I couldn’t report the problem — that I would have to persuade the property owner to make such a request of the city. So much for trying to be a good citizen. Then the referee mentioned that I also had an open meter ticket.

I was ready for him. I explained I had called the number on the meter at the time I parked because it refused to accept my money or my credit card. I went on to say that I had written a letter outlining this sequence of events, as instructed by the member of the parking staff I spoke with. He indicated my letter was indeed attached to my ticket file, but that no one had yet gone out and checked this meter. (As a precaution, I had copies of the ticket and letter with me.) The ticket remained suspended even though more than 30 days had elapsed. I pointed out that whatever mechanical problems existed on May 17 were unlikely to have remained uncorrected for more than a month.

The referee agreed with me, but strongly urged that I pay $15 on this $25 violation because I was certain to lose my appeal. He had already reduced the first ticket to $15 so I departed from the Webb building out a total of $30. Happy, I was not. Why bother to place a number to call on malfunctioning meters if your report will only be ignored? Why enforce parking provisions that no one outside the city attorney’s office is aware of? And then, I recalled that looming budget deficit. This has to be all about the revenue. Why raise taxes when you can simply farm city residents?

If City Council considers the sale of Denver parking revenues to pirates, I plan to make another trip to City Hall and howl like a mashed cat!

Miller Hudson usually writes about politics… but then again, parking is political too, especially these days.