Ian’s Blog from Jail #5

[Transcribed by Mail-to-Jail.]

Ian Freeman

“KPD Shows True Colors with Parking Meter Proposal & What to Do About it”

Keene Police Chief Ken Meola tipped his hand recently with his proposal to switch from the parking meters littering beautiful downtown Keene that many know and detest to a new system of kiosks.” Each unit will replace several meters and unlike meters in other cities, thees do not require the user to place a receipt on the dash.

Please forgive my inexact numbers. I write this from my jail cell and do not have source material in front of me. I’m going by my memory of recent Keene Sentinel pieces on the subject.

Considering, if I recall correctly, that KPD rakes in over $300,000 per year from the current system, one might wonder what the motivation is to change a system that is “working.” (Though I have heard rumor that the Parking Division actually runs in the red. I would love to have this confirmed or denied. Regardless, that information doesn’t change the point of this post.)

Why, greed, of course.

KPD’s pitch to the city council was that the new parking kiosks could result in up to 30% more revenue to the Parking Division. How? Meola claims it will limonite “piggybacking.” You know, that feeling of a relief you get when pulling into a space and noticing there is still time left on the meter? To the driver intending to visit downtown Keene’s businesses or parks, it’s a blessing – but according to KPD – it’s a curse.

“Piggybacking” is simply the lucky perk that some drivers get from the fact that people tend to overestimate how much time they will need on the meter. (In order to avoid the dreaded orange envelope. More on tickets in a bit.) KPD would much rather have EVERY driver overpay. If the estimates are correct, that could mean another $100,000 per year would flow in to the Parking Division. Wahoo! They could then use that money to hire more parking “enforcers”! Thereby resulting in more tickets issued and even more money being extracted from the productive class!

Oops! Hey KPD – your true nature is showing. You’re mostly interested in “serving and protecting” your own bureaucracy. Real protectors would focus on protecting the innocent against force and fraud (like your department’s “Statement of Ethics” suggests), not shaking down people for spare change. Or all of the other aggressive revenue-generating thins you focus on, like kidnapping and fining people for possessing a plant or chemical or driving safely to work. (Both reasons why many others are sitting in this jail. I’ll talk more about them in a future post.)

If KPD and the eight councilors who support testing the new kiosk system (it was a 8-7 vote) had their priorities straight, they wool instead propose and approve the complete removal of all parking meters in Keene. The economy sucks. People all over are hurting. Their cost of living is rising and the value of the dollar is falling. People are pinching pennies just to keep the bills paid, yet KPD and their supporters want to symbolically flip Keeniacs upside down and shake out the remaining nickels, dimes, and quarters. (Oh, and the new system will take credit cards, too – probably for an extra fee).

Do I need to point out the fact that eliminating the parking meters would immediately put over $300,000 per year back into the pockets of the people who earned it? Back into the hurting economy – likely to be spent at downtown businesses that some people avoid specifically because they don’t want the added cost of the meters and the rick of a ticket?

The parking bureaucracy produces nothing but heartache and frustration. Of course the objection will be: “The reason we have meters is because businesses don’t want people parking out front in prime spot all day blocking business.” If meter supporters wanted to help businesses, they should advocate property owners gaining ownership of their spaces adjacent to their property – and let the owners decide how to handle their spaces.

Politics is about compromise though – so here is a middle-road solution: Eliminate parking meters and make the formerly metered spots 2-hour parking, but only enforced by complaint. That way if a long-sitting car is irking a business owner, they can call the cops about it – otherwise the police stay out of the parking enforcement realm.

No one thus far made any parking proposals to actually improve the downtown economy. The only discussion in the Sentinel has been “Should they, or shouldn’t they?” The way they frame the issue is either-or: status quo or the new system? This is the typical , stale “debate” found in political circles and their cheerleaders, of which the Sentinel is one. In a recent editorial, the paper’s writer(s) act like it’s no big deal – it’s just a few nickels and dimes. They express confusion as to why so many Keeniacs are bothered by the proposal (showing how disconnected from reality the editors are), then encourage people to keep an open mind during the upcoming trial. The editorial wraps by saying that “we” may actually get more revenue from the kiosks vindicating the police’s claims and resulting in the full-scale install of these devices, which by the way cost $10,000-$12,000 each and around $3,000 each to install.

Wait, what? Check out the Sentinel’s pitch again – “we” could get more revenue? Who is “we”?

Hey Sentinel – I have news for you. “We” are not the government. The money “we” spend in parking meters is gone from us, the productive people, and put in the hands of those who will use it to feed their bureaucracy and further control us. “We” are not KPD’s Parking Division, and neither are your reporters. If their plan does result in more revenue, that merely expands their budget at the cost of sucking more money away from people who could use it on products and services they actually value.

As nice as the meter maids (or “enforcers” as KPD calls them) might be – most people don’t want their “service”. Eliminate the meters and bureaucracy and they can get real jobs, doing something customers will voluntarily pay for.

Now, on to the practical. Before a sensible proposal to eliminate meters entirely can be made, “we” must stop this one. Here’s how: First, the obvious. Write or call all the city councilors and let them know how you feel. (There is a link to their contact info on the city’s website.) Some councilors, like Cynthia Georgina, voted for the upcoming trial (where 2 kiosks will be loaned from the manufacturer to replace dozens of parking meters) even though they actually like “piggybacking”! I presume it was done simply out of reverence for the police.

Second – refuse to use the kiosks. Notice I didn’t say refuse to park in the kiosked spaces. By all means, park there. Just don’t put money in the kiosk. Yes, you will be ticketed. Do not pay the ticket. Instead, walk into the Keene Police Department and tell the lady behind the parking window that a ticket was left on your car and that you would like a trial. She will attempt to talk you out of it. She may attempt to ask you questions. Do not admit to driving or parking your car – simply inform her that you will not be pleading guilty (that’s what you do when you pay the tickets) and that you want the trial that you are entitled to. Considering the tickets don’t tend to list the owner of the car, it makes sense to give her your name and mailing address so you can be sent a trial notice.

If this is your first time noncooperation, congratulate yourself. Take a moment and search Free Keene for “parking ticket”. You will see that taking a parking ticket to court has resulted usually in the charge being dropped. Even if you do go to trial and are found guilty – worst case – it’s just a “violation” and you’ll have to pay the fine you’d have paid up front anyway. However you just wasted up to an hour of the time of the prosecutor, judge, court staff, and most importantly, the parking enforcer who ticketed you! Remember, if she’s sitting in court, she’s not writing tickets for anyone else! Plus you get to cross-examine her and gain valuable court experience. Again, searching here for “parking ticket” should reveal useful ideas, including trial video. Don’t forget – once you get the date for the trial, you can send a “Notice of Discover Requirement” to the KPD prosecutor (and send a copy to the district court) informing them that you want “discover”. They then have to send you the evidence they have and plan to present at trial. This will cost them more time as well as money to send it via mail. (You can save postage by hand-delivering them to court.)

Kiosks or no kiosks – if 10% of people who get parking tickets took them to trial, it would overload the court system. That’s probably why they’ll drop the charge – the $5 fine just isn’t worth the hassle.

Their system rests on your obedience. The upcoming kiosk trial-period is an ideal time to practice noncooperation. Give it a try and post your story on the Free Keene Forum! (or email news@freekeene.com)

One more thing. Have you ever been saved from a parking ticket by “Robin Hood”? (Activists dropping nickels in expired meters to prevent a ticket) This proposed kiosk system may kill robin-hooding, by making it impossible to determine from the kiosk how much time remains on a given parking space.

Please contact the city councilors and consider refusing to pay for kiosked spots and take your ticket(s) to trial.

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