What a difference a minute makes

Downtown business owner Levi Beckman showed us this recent ... comparison, between the parking pass he purchased from one of the city's automated dispensing machines, and the ticket issued by Office Dave Phelps. The parking permit expired one minute before the ticket was issued. The nice thing about the automated parking passes is that they let you take the time with you when you move your car. The not-so-nice thing is that they tip Officer Phelps to the exact time they will expire -- and the precise time at which he should be sitting there, waiting for the chance to issue a citation. Oh? He wouldn't do that? Camping on tickets about to expire? For revenue purposes? In Hood River? OK, this is probably the first time a ticket has been issued so close to the expiration time. It's never happened before, right? Because, if it had, frequently, with regularity, one might think the enforcement detail was -- how shall we say this? -- a little bit predatory. Has anything like this ever happened to you? Use the comment link to share your story.

Downtown business owner Levi Beckman showed us this recent … comparison, between the parking pass he purchased from one of the city’s automated dispensing machines, and the ticket issued by Officer Dave Phelps. The parking permit expired one minute before the ticket was issued. The nice thing about the automated parking passes is that they let you take the time with you when you move your car. The not-so-nice thing is that they tip Officer Phelps to the exact time they will expire — and the precise time at which a really savvy, revenue-positive patrolman should be sitting there, waiting for the chance to issue a citation. Oh? He wouldn’t do that? Camping on tickets about to expire? For cash purposes? In Hood River? OK, this is probably the first time a ticket has been issued so close to the expiration time. This was just coincidence. Officer Phelps probably just happened by when time expired. It’s never happened before, right? Because, if it had, frequently, with regularity, one might think the enforcement detail was — how shall we say this? — a little bit predatory? But that’s not the way we do business in the Hood, right? Mr. Beckman thought it a bit too incongruous. We kinda sort agree that it looks a little hinky. Has anything like this ever happened to you? Use the comment link to share your story. We’re waiting for the Mayor to respond — he likes to respond. And maybe the police chief. And city manager. Right is right, by god — parking malefactors be damned! Today, the citation. Tomorrow? The empty street. No parkers, no crime. Problem solved. Uh, what problem was that again? No wonder people have such an adversarial view of the adversarial approach to parking enforcement. So, if not this standard of rectitude, what? Maybe that in which the offending car has accumulated too many bird droppings and tree leaves to suggest that it has been parked there only briefly. Oh, will this battle never cease! Imagine what it would be like if we didn’t have meters downtown? We’d have to gripe about … what? What else is there?

 

Government, New business, People, Uncategorized
16 comments on “What a difference a minute makes
  1. A) Why is a downtown business owner taking up 3 hours of parking meant for customers?
    B) The train leaves at 2:20. If you get there at 2:21 you will miss the train.
    C) No whining.

    • Sadly, he’s not the only one. if that’s how he wants to pay, free country, right? Pay to park, pay to overpark. The cost of whining.

  2. The subject of a ‘grace period’ [after a meter has expired] has been the subject of debate for many years. My question back to you and the rest of the community is, How much time past expiration is too much to automatically waive a violation? 3 minutes? 4? 5?

    Like with a 25 MPH speed limit, the police can cite you for doing as little as 1 MPH over, but folks assume that with everyone operating “a little over”, there’s little risk of a citation until you’re past 30 MPH. Think about that — 10% over the posted speed limit still typically would escape being cited. So if this same 10% threshold were adopted as ‘policy’ in the City of Hood River, then a one-hour payment on a meter would effectively net you 66 minutes. So what happens when the officer walks buy your expired meter at minute 67? I can hear the griping now, “That’s bull****, I was only one minute past!”

    So while I’m not advocating or defending zero tolerance policies or predatory enforcement practices, I think it’s a cop out (pun intended) to pin everything on the person whose job is to enforce the posted law. His management is responsible for setting policy and offering guidance as to community norms/standards on enforcement. Further, parking citations are cheap in this town at ~$15 for an expired meter violation.

    So my suggestion is that the City adopt a policy whereby officers typically waive meter violations at <5 minutes past due *AND* we increase the fine for overdue meters to $20 (or even more). Otherwise, a policy of lax enforcement will lead to unavailable parking x a material hit to City revenues.

  3. IMO Its all about the revenue. Hey lets shop locally keep the $ in The Gorge Lets keep those parking tickets local.What a waste of time and effort. I say eliminate that meaningless ticket officer,several times I’ve seen him and a police officer laugh about harassing a business owner over a sign infraction. Hood River has changed for the worse in these respects. Its so nice to shop in White Salmon with no parking meters.

  4. Happy to respond. I’ll remind “the Buzzer” that I proposed a 5 minute grace period at a city council meeting 4 years ago. After a healthy discussion, including a comment in opposition by one Stu Watson, it was rejected. I still like the idea, but I learned a lesson from watching Charlie Brown try to kick a football. I’m not going to propose it again unless I see some strong indications of support, such as a proposal from the Chamber or other business or citizen groups. You can read a very abbreviated version of the previous debate here: http://ci.hood-river.or.us/pageview.aspx?id=28182

    Parking fees are about both revenue and turnover. Revenue: When you visit the city for work, dinner, shopping or tourism, the city doesn’t get a penny from you to support city services unless you either park at a meter or stay overnight. Turnover: the biggest surge of complaints we ever got was when the city manager removed parking fees before Christmas. Reports flooded in that all the spots were clogged with employees and owners, leaving no room at all for customers. That program was discontinued at the request of the businesses.

    • Thanks, Arthur. I remember well the free parking fiasco. No good deed goes unpunished. Actually, I think the city has done a marvelous job of engaging the public and refining its parking plan to improve matters. The pass system is very affordable, for workers who must park near their businesses. Compare the monthly rates to the cost of plugging meters 8 hours a day ($160 a month, roughly), and it’s all bank to buy a pass. As I hope was implicit in my caption to Levi’s photo, I was trying to capture the wildly polarized views on parking, the sort of whack-a-mole nature of the game. Officer Phelps is, indeed, doing the job for which he was hired. And quite well, which is probably what irritates people who get zinged. I’ve heard others complain about their view that he is camping on passes about to expire. Putting myself in his shoes, I wonder how else one would do it? It would be pretty crazy to think, “OK, a minute left, I’ll take another 30-minute lap around downtown and see how this car is looking when I return.” And, on the flip side, he’s just one guy — I imagine all the free hours that parkers get when their time runs out an Office Phelps is on the other end of town, nowhere near enforcing their expired time. We all win some, lose some. I still think the grace period makes no sense — just moves the “bar of complaint” down the road — but I applaud our friend Jeff Nicol’s thoughtful embrace of that concession to the tardy. Whatever the city does, someone will grouse. And, with that, I promise note to poke the parking bear for at least another year.

  5. Bummer; you were a minute late back to your car! Your post seems just a tad, I don’t know…paranoid? Do you really think Officer Phelps walks around memorizing times so he can plan to go back and possibly give a ticket?

    As for a grace period, sadly I think many people would just mentally extend the amount of time they had to include the grace period. If so, what would be gained?

    As for meters vs. automatic pass dispensers, I’ll take meters any day; half the time I end up parking in a spot with time on the meter. When I don’t, I like to think of the person parking after me getting a few of my minutes.

    What is really galling is that there isn’t enough parking downtown. But like many people, the thought of high-rise parking or more lots isn’t nice either. My favorite solution is to create a shuttle bus that would run between parking lots from West Cascade Street, through downtown, and out to the Best Western, at intervals all day long, with stops at Safeway, downtown, and Tum-A-Lum. I would gladly pay a fare (or for a book of fares) to park with ease at either end and take a shuttle to my various destinations, and I bet a lot of others would too.

    • Marvelous note, Anne. Thanks. When I posted Levi’s photo, I was being intentionally provocative. I’ve lived the whole parking debate for years, much of it in my previous capacity as director of the Downtown Business Association. Bringing up parking is like poking a bear. Why would anyone do that? Because a sleeping bear is boring, I guess. Your shuttle idea has been discussed as several parking forums — the idea was to put parkers at the Port’s Lot 1, an idea that will never fly — and shuttle them downtown. There’s actually — except at peak times — plenty of parking. The goal is and always has been to keep workers away from the spots right near the businesses, so customers can use them. Workers, of course, are free to use them, and pay the freight — before or after the ticket arrives. The smarter ones grab a free space on the periphery of downtown, and stroll to their jobs. The poor, we will always have with us. And the parking debate. Thanks for weighing in.

  6. If you ask me the only context you/we should mention Officer Phelps is to recognize how extremely well he does his job. For all the bad press and looks he gets, that man deserves a some sort of award. Think about how many people would speed through our neighborhoods putting our lives in danger if there were no such thing as a ‘speed trap’.

    After all, the world doesn’t revolve around you and your schedule. If the meter is up, only you are to blame. Applying some sort of official subjective grace period, would only make it more difficult to police and enforce. It really makes no sense.

  7. Too many stories to tell but here’s my last encounter…
    Went to the bank, plugged the meter, did my business, got back to the car with time on the meter, put the kids in the car, I get in and am turned around buckling them in and I turn around to face the front and guess who’s writing me a ticket? I smiled, started my car and drove off (after buckling the kids of course). No, I didn’t get a ticket but if one of the buckles had taken just 30 seconds longer, I would have. How did he know I was leaving vs arriving? He stood there and watched and waited and the second (literally) the meter ran out he did his best to get that ticket printed out before I could buckle the kids in and leave. True story, two weeks ago.
    It certainly puts a damper on your day when you’re downtown patronizing the businesses and the line takes longer than expected and costs you and extra $15. Personally I think the downtown businesses would benefit if we could actually “shop” vs running to grab what you need and hope the line’s not too long and run back to your car before the hammer comes down. How about showing a receipt with a time stamp from your shopping and have the ticket reduced 50%? Just my two cents. Thanks for bringing this to light Stu!

  8. As Mayor of White Salmon I encourage everyone to shop here in White Salmon. We do not have parking meters. If you are an Oregon resident purchasing goods to take with you, most stores will not charge you WA sales tax. We are a business friendly community and truly do believe in shopping locally. I look forward to seeing you in White Salmon.

  9. I try to avoid downtown. Last time there was a fine. I will either walk blocks to park where there are no meters. Or better yet the heights.

    If we just had aDouble Mountain up there. Double mountain high?

  10. The city should consider having an annual fee for a parking pass. If you are a resident of Hood River, pay the city $25-50 to park downtown for the year.
    The downtown employees of businesses will still need to be considerate of their patrons by parking in the periphery.
    There are so many times that we just need to be downtown for just a few minutes at a time. (get coffee, pick up a card, drop off skis, bank, pick up takeout, pick up a gift, buy a pair of shoes…you get the picture) I do not see this pass being abused. Locals usually know exactly what they want when they go downtown. Except when the family packs up to go out to eat or we have guests in town, we rarely spend more than 30 minutes at a time in the lovely parking spot.
    (I have gotten 2 tickets in a month…sometimes the coffee line is just too long…or run into somebody and have a brief chat…..or have a difficult time getting a child out of G.Willikers…and your standard 20 minutes on the meter just doesn’t make it!!!!!
    Consider the pass. 35 cents a pop times how many pops the average resident needs to park downtown. Would it even add up to $50. And if it does not, the city just made some easy money.

  11. If you’re shopping downtown, you should not have to pay the full amount if your time expires within a certain grace period (5-10) minutes. Maybe a receipt proving you bought something would reduce the fine by 50%.

    Here’s my complaint: Last summer, while driving a car I had rented at Dollar in Portland, I parked downtown to grab a Mondito Burrito at Taco Del Mar. I parked on 1st street up near Cascade, and didn’t pay, thinking I would be quick. Five minutes later I returned the the car, with Mondito in hand, and noticed a white envelope on my windshield. To my dismay, I snatched it up, and proceeded to drive off. Wait! I should take this citation into Taco Del Mar, I thought. Maybe they can take care of this for me. After-all, I was parking to patronize their fine restaurant. The Taco maker gladly accepted the ticket, and said “we’ll take care of this.” Happy to have saved $15 bucks, I walked back to my car (which I parked further away in the free zone).

    Cut to 6 months later. I get a letter from Dollar Rent-a-car in Portland, saying they have debited my account $35 because they had been contacted by The City of Hood River with a citation for $25 ($15 + $10 late fee).

    I contacted Hood River and explained my plight, but to no avail. They didn’t care that Taco Del Mar accepted my ticket. There would still be a citation and a late fee.

    I should have known better. Just pay the $15 bucks. Your resistance is futile.

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