Like a lot of people who live on the outskirts of Portland (I live near Canby), I try not to go anywhere in the city that requires paying for parking.
A few weeks ago I was asked to attend a meeting at the Ecotrust building. I arrived early for the 2-hour meeting, allowing time to locate a parking space. I parked, got out of my car, and went to the machine to get a parking permission slip.
I noted, as I always do (too late), that the machine would only take credit cards or coins – not bills. I began feeding coins into the machine, desiring to pay for 3 hours (the maximum for the space I parked in). It became clear that I was not carrying enough change. Everyone carries 4 or 5 dollars in change, right?
After putting in $1.40 I left the machine to return to my car to get more change, and returned to the machine. No one else had appeared on the street in my absence, but the display on the machine was now blank. I looked for any indication that there was a way to call back credit for the money deposited a minute or two ago, but there was none. The machine had simply stolen my money.
I then proceeded to insert the balance of the money needed to pay for 3 hours of parking (an additional $3.00) and print out the permission slip. Needless to say, the original payment was not included on the permission slip, nor did the time reflect the full payment. I faced a dilemma: start over (by paying another $4.40 to get a new slip), or make a note on the slip I had, explaining the problem.
I wrote on the slip. I then stuck the slip on the curbside window and went to my meeting. Of course, on return about two and a half hours later, I had a ticket for overtime parking.
I wrote to the Circuit Court, explaining the situation, and enclosing a copy of the Parking Permission Slip showing my notes about the problem.
But that is all background.
Here is the core of the problem:
I received a letter from the Circuit Court, explaining that they had received my “documentation”, but were unable to “forward your dispute to a judge for review” because I had not enclosed “payment for the full bail amount”. Failure to do so would be grounds for the city to impound “the cited vehicle” – take my car away. Without a hearing.
In other words, I must pay the city before I can have my day in court. If I don’t, they will take my car. Sounds like extortion, doesn’t it?
Now, I know that this approach is easier, for the city, and more efficient, for the city. And so it is policy.
But it is not easier for me, nor more efficient. It is not fair. It is not even reasonable. Given that the accused is supposed to be innocent until proven guilty in this country, I am not sure it is actually legal. But, it is policy.
It is a policy that comes from politicians and bureaucrats who think they are more important than the rest of us. It comes from people who believe that their time is more valuable than ours. It comes from an arrogance that says that our actions are supposed to make their lives easier, not the other way around.
Why get so worked up about a parking ticket, you ask?
It isn’t about the parking ticket.
It is about that arrogance. The same arrogance that got Aaron Campbell murdered.
Because Mr. Campbell did not immediately respond to multiple conflicting instructions from multiple officials, he was killed. And the Grand Jury says it was a bad thing, but it is policy.
It is that arrogance that allows police to shoot unarmed people simply because the officer fears for her/his life. In the process it ignores the fact that the murder of unarmed citizens is a huge contributor to the tension and distrust that officers feel on the streets, leading them to fear for their lives.
It is that arrogance that allows an armed professional to be held less responsible than a typical citizen, and to murder people because it is easier, and more efficient, than dealing with the real problem.
It is policy, and the policy is followed, and that’s the problem.
It is, quite literally, killing us.
What do you think?