Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Toledo 'nickle and diming' its residents - UPDATED

In case you missed it, 13ABC had the story about a city employee issuing parking tickets to residents who have gravel driveways. This morning, the Drudge Report picked up the story.

According to Toledo Municipal Code, Section 351.07 Standing and/or parking; prohibited or limited, it is illegal to:

(33) Stand or park a vehicle upon any unpaved portion of a front lot or side lot in any residence district, or upon any unpaved portion of a vacant lot in any residence district, except as otherwise permitted under the local Zoning Ordinance, Part Eleven of the Toledo Municipal Code.

The problem is that only certain individuals are authorized, under Toledo's code, to issue such tickets.

351.18. Parking tickets.

Whenever any vehicle without an operator is found parked or standing in violation of the provisions of this Traffic Code or State law, the police officer finding such vehicle shall take its registration number and may take any other information which may identify its user and shall conspicuously affix to such vehicle a parking ticket. Such ticket shall give notice of the charge against the operator of such vehicle and the place and hours that the charge shall be answered. The officer shall send a copy of such parking ticket to the place where the charge is to be answered.
(emphasis added)

Dan Wagner, president of the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association, told WSPD that he is considering filing a complaint with the court over a contract violation, as only police officers have this authority (except in the downtown area where the city has authorized the Downtown Parking Authority to issue certain types of tickets for meter violations).

Wagner was also encouraging individuals to fight the tickets in court.

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner refused to respond to questions about the ticketing from various news media, saying he'd already answered any and all questions regarding that issue - despite the fact that his statement was in response to questions he'd not yet answered.

He also issued the following press release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, June 15, 2009

City of Toledo addresses illegally parked vehicles

In response to a citizen complaint to the City of Toledo Board of Community Relations, the Commissioner of Streets, Bridges and Harbor responded by going to the location of the complaint to assess whether it was valid or not. She personally observed that it was a valid complaint. She observed several illegally parked vehicles along the first street she visited. While there, a neighbor asked her to check out his street, which also had a number of illegally parked vehicles. Once she observed they too were illegally parked, she cited them as well.

The City of Toledo supports its laws in general and illegally parked vehicles can and will be ticketed, and these tickets are considered valid.

Well, just because the mayor considers these tickets valid doesn't make them so. The law director should have been consulted, but that might have resulted in an opinion Carty didn't like. In the end, the Toledo Municipal Court judge who hears any such challenge will decide if a city employee can assume the role of a police officer and issue a parking ticket.

However, as I said last night during Eye On Toledo, watch out! If the court decides this has to be done by a police officer, I expect the city's next step will be to decriminalize such offenses, have city employees take photographs of the parked vehicle and then issue a civil fine, appealable only to a hearing officer hired by the city, and when not paid, send it to collection - just like they do for red-light and speed cameras.

After all - if it works for other traffic violations, why not for parking violations as well?!? All to get some extra cash because our politicians have spent us into million dollar deficits.

UPDATE: The tickets issued to the residents by the acting commissioner are not regular traffic citations. They are the white form parking tickets - usually disbursed by the Downtown Parking Authority. Under TMC 129.05, certain individuals within city government have special police powers:

(a) Special police power is hereby conferred upon the following officers of the City: Mayor, President of Council, members of Council, Clerk of Council, Director of Law and all Legal Assistants to the Director of Law, Police Prosecutor, Director of Public Service and Commissioner of Streets, Bridges and Harbor; and such power is hereby determined to be the same and coextensive with that of the police officers of the Department of Police Operations. The Director of Police Operations is hereby directed to procure for each of the above officials suitable badges which shall remain the property of the City.

And Chapter 309 of the TMC specifically cites individuals authorized under the 129.05 definitions as having authority to issue tickets. So the tickets are, technically, valid.

However, that brings up the question of whether or not the city is selectively enforcing the law about parking on unpaved areas in the front and side yards, especially since many homes within the city have gravel driveways and have had them since before this particular law was put in place.

14 comments:

JMM said...

Hi Maggie,
Side bar - About the red light cameras. If you don't pay the fine can they attach it to your credit report for non payment?

Maggie Thurber said...

They say they will, but no one's yet told me it's happened. They are sending out letters from a law firm, but there are no judgments in court for the fine amount. The attorney would have to file a claim in Municipal Court and then get an order from a judge - that doesn't seem to be happening yet - if at all.

Tim Higgins said...

Maggie,

Two points worth considering:

1. Since employees in the Department of Streets, Bridges, and Harbors seem to have the free time to write parking tickets, might we not be better served to simply lay off employees in this department and either pay back some of the debt or bring back police to legitimately hand out such citations?
2. Does anybody expect these workers to write 500,000 $25 parking tickets to make up the $12.5 million that the city is currently looking at in budget shortfall?

Kudos to the Mayor however, with finding a whole new brand of crazy to come out with though.

Hooda Thunkit (a.k.a. Dave Zawodny) said...

Maggie,

"Well, just because the mayor considers these tickets valid doesn't make them so. The law director should have been consulted, but that might have resulted in an opinion Carty didn't like."

IMNHO, the "mayor" is drunk with POWER and, being/staying "drunk with power" is unwilling/incapable of negotiating with the unions, which must be done before he addresses delivering the basic services that Toleodoans require.

In his current "Drunk with power" state, he seems to think that cutting grass on Saturdays somehow equates to leadership.

So, while Rome (Toledo) burns, our "beloved" mayor seems content to play his "It's my way or the highway" style of what passes for leadership instead of sitting his ass down and communicating with the unions, city council, the media, and the citizenry.

He lives in a little world of his very own, where he is the king, and we his loyal subjects/dupes faithfully comply to his every whim.

Perhaps it's time to elect a REAL Mayor instead of a megalomaniac...

Jay Ott said...

Obviously the city is issuing these tickets to offset the budget deficit.

The problem is the same with funding gov't operations with other kinds of fines and fees, viz., redlight/speed tickets.

Eventually, most people will comply, thus drying up the funding. In turn, that will lead to the city looking for other ways to reach into our pockets. The more they do this, the more ridiculous and greedy they look.

I think gov't could save themselves a lot of grief if it reduces its wasting taxpayer dollars on Easter Egg hunts, athletics, etc.

JMM said...

Hi Maggie,

I just recieved a copy of my credit report and low and behold there is a collection from the City for the ticket. It is from,

City Check Recovery
PO BOX 32299
Columbus, OH
614-577-0932

I have not been to court or was aware of any judgement against me. So much for using a local agency,eh.

Other then challenging the credit report what options do I have?

Thanks John

Maggie Thurber said...

JMM - I'd call an attorney.

Mad Jack said...

Now we all know what the Mayor of Crazytown is capable of. Will we ever find anyone better?

My question is: How does the local government rescind or eliminate bad law? Is there anything city council can do to get a law like this, what, dissolved? Erased?

Maggie Thurber said...

Sure, Mad Jack, they just repeal it - passing an ordinance that repeals whatever the relevant section codes are.

But hey - wasn't Carty's business roundtable supposed to go through all the laws and make recommendations for ones to be repealed?

Oh yeah...campaign promise...

Hooda Thunkit (a.k.a. Dave Zawodny) said...

Maggie,

That was cold, cold I tell Ya.

Not saying it was wrong, just cold...

:-)

Maggie Thurber said...

yes, well, Hooda, having been an elected official, I suppose I can say those sorts of things...lol!

Tim Higgins said...

Maggie,

I believe that it was Eugen McCarthy who said, "It is dangerous for a national candidate to say things that people might remember."

We will now it, "It is dangerous for a local candidate to do likewise when Maggie is around."

:-D

-Sepp said...

Carty does like to keep Toledo in the national spotlight by any means he can!

All those folks looking to open up businesses can see what goes on here and just shake their heads and choose anywhere but Toledo.
Why would anyone move here willingly to be subjected to this crap?

Carol said...

Imagine my surprise as I hear a newscaster in Greensboro, NC say, "And in Toledo, Ohio there is a major storm brewing about gravel driveways ..." as they start film footage of a gentleman closing the gate to his yard where his vehicle is parked on gravel. They even mentioned Carty. :::sigh:::

The old saying of "no publicity is bad publicity" is not true. Especially in this economic climate. There aren't large numbers of people clamoring to move TO Toledo. But there are many, that I know personally, that fully intend to get out of there. And that's sad.

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