Siccing The Cops On Scofflaws

There’s a Starbucks on a street corner near our house.  It’s a busy place in the morning, and it doesn’t have its own parking lot, although there is an available lot only a hundred feet or so away.  I walk past the Starbucks every morning at about 6 a.m. on my outbound early morning jaunt, and walk past it again at about 6:30 on my return home.

By then, inevitably, there are extremely important people who have parked illegally right in front of the store, so they can dash in to get their morning Starbucks fix without having to wait an instant longer, walk a few steps after parking in the available lot, or comply with posted parking signs like the rest of us average folks.  And they’re not just parking in a legitimate spot that requires a special sticker, either.  No, they’re leaving their cars in clearly posted “No Stopping” zones, where their cars block the crosswalk, meaning anyone walking by has to squeeze between parked cars — which isn’t very safe when people are driving in and out, like at a Starbucks — and anyone who happened to be using a wheelchair, walker, or stroller would be totally out of luck because the curb cut and incline are totally blocked.  And, also inevitably, these self-absorbed illegal parkers who can’t spare an extra minute of their time then put their car in reverse, in the process going the wrong way on a one-way street, and back out onto Third Street before going on their merry way.  In the process, they pay no attention to anybody who might be crossing the street behind them.

This who scenario bugs the crap out of me (obviously), and I’ve had to restrain myself from saying something to these scofflaws when they happen to leave the Starbucks as I am walking by.  Last week I thought we had reached the nadir of lawful compliance in our society when somebody parked in the no stopping zone — immediately behind a police car that was parked legally!  Talk about chutzpah!  And I toyed with the idea of actually calling the police to see if they could send out somebody to ticket a few of these selfish people and remind them that the parking laws apply to them, too.  But I restrained myself, trying to adopt a “live and let live” attitude.

This week, though, a police office magically appeared at the Starbucks corner at just the right time and wrote tickets for every illegally parked car.  I actually patted the guy on the shoulder and thanked him for doing something to promote pedestrian safety and take a step to advance the “broken windows” theory in our neighborhood.  I didn’t summon him, but somebody did — and I was glad.

I hope the illegal parkers enjoyed reading their tickets as they savored their triple caramel latte and thought about their enormous importance.

 

That Inexplicable Political Perspective

In Ohio we’ve had two recent examples of how politicians just seem to think about things in ways that are different from the rest of us.  Both involve Democratic candidates for statewide offices, and both involve cars.

Ed FitzGerald, the Cuyahoga County Executive — that means he’s the county’s top official — had no driver’s license at all for six years, then he had a “learner’s permit” that required him to drive in the company of another adult as part of a series of temporary permits for additional years; in all, he went 10 years without a permanent license.  This came to light when the story broke that FitzGerald was found in a car with a woman who was not his wife at 4:30 a.m., during a time period where he had a learner’s permit.  FitzGerald says nothing untoward happened, but he acknowledges that after he dropped the woman off at a hotel he drove home alone — which violated his permit.  It’s unclear how many other times FitzGerald violated his learner’s permits, but another Democratic official admits seeing him drive himself back and forth from work frequently during the time before he had full driving privileges.

Then there’s David Pepper, the Democratic candidate for Attorney General.  It turns out that Pepper has wracked up more than 180 parking tickets over 14 years — some which were for driving with expired license plates — including one as recently as last month.  Pepper, who served as a Hamilton County Commissioner and a Cincinnati City Council member during that 14-year period, has paid more than $9,000 in fines on the tickets.

Of course, both the FitzGerald and the Pepper campaigns say these curious matters are being emphasized by Republicans just to distract voters from the more important issues.  Perhaps that’s true, but these strange stories still tell you something about the candidates.  How many working adults in America don’t have permanent driver’s licenses, and how many would drive under a series of restricted permits rather than just going to the DMV, waiting with the rest of the unwashed masses, taking the necessary tests, and getting their license?  I would be a nervous wreck driving myself around in violation of a permit.  Wasn’t FitzGerald worried about getting pulled over, or getting into an accident and having to show his license to police?

As for Pepper, his campaign says he had a “hectic schedule” during the time period he got all of the parking tickets.  Of course, that could be said about most working Americans — but somehow we find ways to park our cars legally.  I can understand parking in an illegal space in an emergency, but there is no way Pepper experienced more than 180 true emergencies over 14 years.  If he got 180 tickets, how often did he park illegally and not get ticketed?  Can’t he read parking signs like the rest of us?  And didn’t he come to conclude after his first, say, $1,000 in parking tickets that it might be prudent to pay attention to signs and leave himself more time to find legitimate parking spaces?  Why shouldn’t voters look at this record of personal responsibility and question whether Pepper would be a responsible choice for the position of Ohio’s top law enforcement officer?