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A small gripe

Original post made by a mom on Nov 21, 2008

Today I discovered, via the parking ticket on my car window, that I am not allowed to park near my neighborhood school between 9am and 10am on school days. Mea Culpa, the sign was visible and I just didn't realize it was there since I don't normally park here. I normally walk, but had to get my son to a special assembly for his class this morning and was running late. I'm sure the signs are there so the neighbors don't have to deal with a lot of unfamiliar cars on the street during the day because of the proximity to school. Again, my mistake, I take responsibility for it and have already paid the ticket.

However, given the lightning speed with which I was fined for this infraction, I am dumbfounded that not too far away, near another neighborhood school, no one is ever fined for blocking up to half of my driveway while waiting to pick up their children, which happens weekly. (And no, calling parking enforcement wouldn't work as by the time they got there, the driveway blocker would be gone -- too late to help me when I need to get in and out of my driveway. But parking enforcement knows when school is out and where all the cars wait for that school, just as they knew where and when to swoop in and fine me today..)

No one bothered to question the neighbor's contractor who parked a cement truck in front of my driveway almost all day recently. (Not to blow this out of proportion -- I talked to the sub, who said it would be gone by the next day, and it was certainly not done with my neighbor's okay -- and I wouldn't even have been so annoyed if someone had simply asked me in advance so I could park my car on the street and not get blocked in. I'm happy to help my neighbor and his contractor. I'm just pointing this out because of the inconsistent parking enforcement -- from where I'm sitting, the city seems so fast to fine and slow to protect -- it's kind of hard to miss a big cement truck parked in front of a driveway all day, when the construction is obviously happening next door).

Anyway, I'm just sending up a small gripe, since it's emblematic of my wish that the city would attend to a whole range of issues with the intensity and efficiency of its fine collection activities. Or maybe stop relying so heavily on all kinds of fines for a revenue stream, I think it hurts the effort to improve the relationship between citizens and the city.

Comments (3)

Posted by Mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 21, 2008 at 1:56 pm

Wrong place at the wrong time. When there are Jordan events, people park in the no parking zone bike lanes and no one get ticketed.

Next time, try arguing the ticket. I've argued tickets before and won, but that was when we lived out-of-state. Don't know if it is possible here. PAPD is used to arguing residents so maybe they don't listen to it...


Posted by Grandma, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 21, 2008 at 3:37 pm

The PAPD have to pay for their new Public Safety Building somehow, and you just got caught. So, life is unfair, isn't that what we teach our children. Take your lumps, pay the fine, and move on with your life.


Posted by a mom, a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 21, 2008 at 4:48 pm

Thanks for the comments. The parking ticket itself (for which I was at fault) isn't what bothers me so much as this environment of fines in this city. The city has all these fines to encourage or discourage certain behavior, which is perfectly fine, but then the collecting of the fines becomes something else because it generates a revenue stream. I think using a lot of fines for revenue sours the relationship between city hall and the public and makes the city a less nice place to live for citizens.

For example, in this situation, a warning would have served exactly the same purpose, because it would have made me more aware of the signs and the cost of making the same mistake again. I would not have made the same mistake again. I brought the situation up to other parents this afternoon; everyone else in the group had already been fined for making exactly the same mistake. No one did it deliberately, so in their case as well, a warning the first time and a fine the second would have served exactly the same purpose. That is, if the purpose of the fine structure is to change behavior rather than to generate a revenue stream.

Thanks for the suggestion to fight the fine, but I know very well that it would be unsuccessful here, and as I said, in this case, I was at fault. I know it would be unsuccessful regardless because the only other parking ticket I've had I feel was NOT my fault. It was in a downtown lot that wasn't well marked. I ended up fighting that one and lost. However, I sent a copy of my complaint to the transportation department, which agreed with me that the signs were inadequate and said they were correcting the situation based on their investigation. So for the price of a parking ticket, I was able to show my first grader how you can change things for everyone's benefit just by caring and being involved. It was a clean and cheap civics lesson, and worth the fine. However, it still made me feel terrible about Palo Alto's tendency to be so heavy-handed with fines.

Yes, life is unfair. But it's always good to take the effort where one can to make things more fair when it's in one's power. This may mean fighting city hall, but it shouldn't be WWIII, so I think it's worth some effort. Especially since the city claims to want more civic engagement from residents, and the city's job is really to be fair and make the town a good place to live.


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