Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Auto-guilt: private parking enforcement

Three-hour parking on 5th next to First Call Resolution

Once again, Dale Matthews brings us useful news on the Bill Meyer Show on KMED.com.  We learned that, at the City Council’s January 11th workshop, the City of Grants Pass presented a plan to hand off downtown parking enforcement to a private company.  The main difference between this and our present parking code enforcement is that, if you are ticketed and want to contest the ticket, you have to pay the fine first and then appeal the verdict of the parking attendant.  You will be guilty until proven innocent in the name of “efficiency.”
The company will collect its contract payment from parking violators and pay any collections over that to the City, on a monthly basis.  While the company says that cities never pay for enforcement, there is no guarantee that they will pay anything to the city.
It turns out that separation of powers has long since taken a walk, not surprising in a city where the Manager is hired by the Council.  No need to involve a court in judging cases!  Presently, our Community Development Director hears parking “appeals.”  Code 6.02.030 also says, “Any further appeal or contesting of the violation, fine, delinquent charges, or collection fee shall be pursued through the appropriate court.”  According the format of the Notice of Violation in 6.06.050, the appropriate court is the “District Court of the State of Oregon for Josephine County,” which must an old name for the Circuit court. 
Staff wish to eventually have “someone more involved on a day-to-day basis” designated to hear appeals of downtown parking tickets once enforcement is given to a private company.  Presumably, that would be the company that issues the ticket, considering that they are presently heard by the City.
At least you don’t have to pay before contesting a ticket, if you appeal within 3 days.  Late fees are stopped until the appeal is heard.  Otherwise, if it is not paid by the 3rd day, late charges of $2 per day accrue until the 13th day, when an additional $20 collection fee is added, according to 6.06.050 Notice of Violation - Format.
Our Community Service (CSO) director said that we are having trouble collecting parking fines and fees.  Little wonder; Council doubled the fine in 2014, from $25 to $50.  Add on the maximum fees in the ticket format, and it becomes $90.  The employees being cited are low-paid, may have trouble paying a ticket within 3 days or 13 days, and are used to fending off collectors. 
Making us pay before contesting a ticket will not help matters.  It just shuts off the recourse of pleading “not guilty” and paying when found guilty.
According to GPMC 6.07.080 Non-Payment of Penalties - Wheel Locking Device, “When the total of all unpaid fines, delinquent charges, and collection fees amounts to $100 or more, which fines, delinquent charges, and collection fees are attributable to the parking violations of a single vehicle, Public Safety Officers or Community Service Officers are authorized to place on said vehicle (when it is discovered parked inside the City), a wheel locking device to disable the vehicle….” Under the fees in effect when this was passed in 2010, the threshold would be a third unpaid ticket.  Now, under the maximum of what is shown above, a “boot” would be installed upon a second offense before late charges.
Our head CSO wants to hand off collections to a private parking company.  He said that collections are hit and miss, with no actual process to collect them, and they are sent in for collections once a year.  It appears that we have a process that is not being followed.  I am sure that the private company will want to use it, after being authorized to “boot” the vehicles themselves.
The big problem with our downtown parking is that the City allowed First Call Resolution to locate their business and its many employees in the restricted downtown parking zone, in a big building with no parking of its own.  Its employees have been parking in restricted areas and getting tickets since they moved in.  They started parking outside the zone in the residential area across 4th Street, and the City restricted parking in that area to 3 hours, which residents on little lots without garages or driveways find pretty irritating.  The City opened up their 4th and F public parking lot to employees, but it is 4 blocks away from First Call Resolution.

3-hour parking signs recently have been removed on I from 5th to 4th; there are no parking signs past 4th in the residential area now.

Since the City allowed them to locate there, it should work with First Call Resolution to move their business to another building with sufficient parking in another part of town.  There are several available. 
There is clearly not enough employee parking near this business.  Making people pay before contesting a ticket won’t do anything but hurt low level employees for their employer’s lack of parking and the city’s lack of planning.
What the City should not do is hand off this mess to a private company to enforce.  It will not work any better with a private company than it does now.  It will not, according to staff, reduce the number of CSOs working downtown, only free up some of their time to do more enforcement of other city code violations. 
Our laws should be enforced by police, not a private company.  We should not have to pay a fine before we contest it.  If we contest it, we should be judged by a court, not an employee of the city or a private company.   It should be treated like any other traffic ticket, to restore our right to a fair trial by an impartial judge. The answer to insufficient parking downtown is to provide parking, not penalize workers for their employer’s lack, or residents whose home parking is being restricted because of one big employer without parking.

Special February 2016 protest leaflet.  CurrentNewsYouCanUse.blogspot.com.  Sign the petition at https://www.change.org/p/grants-pass-city-manager-aaron-cubic-leave-pot-growers-alone-target-litter-and-weeds.
Read the ordinance at http://gardengrantspass.blogspot.com/2015/09/chapter-572-homegrown-and-medical.html
Support the lawsuit at www.GoFundMe.com/HomegrownDefense

Rycke Brown, Natural Gardener          541-955-9040        rycke@gardener.com