Sunday, November 29, 2009

The City of New Orleans Parking Ticket Gestapo Strikes Again

We were having such a great Arts Market weekend. Sales were brisk. The weather was perfect. Everyone was happy.

Until right at the end, when it was time to pack up the set-up and head home.

That's when the City sent out the parking ticket gestapo, in full force, to engage in a bald-faced money grab by capitalizing on a situation that the victims of this money grab simply could not avoid.

It's like this... The Arts Market meets the last Saturday of every month. In November and December, they extend the Market for two days, and include Sundays in the mix. They even hire out security to watch over the booth setups overnight on Saturday since many of the artists return the next day.

The Arts Market is located in Palmer Park, which is a public park located on the corner of Carrollton and Claiborne Avenues. Since the park itself is fairly small and is located in the midst of a cramped urban space, there is only street side parking around the park. And there are about 120 artists who put up booths. At 4:00pm, when the market officially ends, the artists pull up their trucks, vans, trailers, cars, etc., around the edges of the park closest to where their booths are set up. Vehicles are not allowed to pull into the park. So, even in the best case scenario, an artist will have to break down his or her setup and lug it all at least 50 feet. That's the best case scenario, for artists whose booths are closest to the street edges of the park and who are able to park on the street closest to their booth. The majority of the artists have to go much farther than 50 feet to load up their vehicles with their tents, tables, art pieces, shelves, etc. Some even have to lug their stuff 70+ yards from their booth space in the park to their vehicles parked on the street. And remember that we're talking about 120 artists, all trying to break down and pack up their stuff at the same time. And that's not to mention the thousands of people who go to the Arts Market to purchase things and who also need to find parking.

Needless to say, there are many vehicles encircling the park, and many even double parked at closing time where space permits. Everyone is always very patient with one another and is very accommodating as each tries to navigate the difficult and laborious task of breaking down and packing up. It's actually a very efficient process, since the artists have done this plenty of times and can usually have their booths broken down, packed up, and gone within 1-2 hours.

Of course, it's worth mentioning that this is an event promoted by the City through the Arts Council of New Orleans.

And what does the City do during this time. They orchestrate a friggin' invasion of the parking ticket gestapo right at closing time to try to maximize the number of parking tickets they can dole out and revenue they can capture. If someone is parked temporarily in a spot where parking is usually prohibited during the work week, the parking ticket gestapo will be writing him a ticket. If someone is double-parked with her hazards on while she is pulling her stuff from her booth space to her vehicles on pull carts and dollies, the parking ticket gestapo will be writing her a ticket.

I know that the City is facing a budget shortfall and is scraping for sources of revenue, but does the Mayor cut back on his obscenely expensive taxpayer-funded junkets across the world to help mitigate the budget shortfall? No Sirree! The SOB sends out the parking ticket gestapo to the friggin' Arts Market on a Sunday afternoon, right at closing time, to punish the very people who are actually driving an economic engine that is a source of revenue for the City. Sheesh! It's almost enough to drive me to become conservative. Really, I'm not averse to paying my fair share of taxes. Hell, I'm not averse to paying an even greater share of taxes from my prosperity. But sending out the parking ticket gestapo to slap what is, in effect, a one-time punitive surcharge at a moment when there is absolutely no way to avoid it (I mean, the artists HAVE TO pack up their stuff and cart it away once the market ends!!! What the hell else can we do?!?!), is just insulting. It is the absolute worst kind of bald-faced, cynical, manipulative, bad-faith abuse of authority and vicious preying that there is. (It's also a disturbing trend. What City Government treats people participating in a 102-yr-old tradition that seeks to benefit the Spina Bifida Foundation of Greater New Orleans by issuing them a parking ticket on Thanksgiving day for parking where they have always parked for this event?)

Well, I'm not going to stand for this. It has to stop.

Yes, I got a parking ticket for parking my pickup truck on the street curb close to where my wife's Arts Market booth was set up. It's a place where I have always parked it every month over the past year when we've had a booth at the market. But I'm planning to contest this ticket. If possible, I plan to show up at the hearing, where I will hopefully try to lay out the obvious and purposefully malicious intent of the action and try to explain the injustice of it -- at least as I see it. We'll see what comes of it, if I can make it downtown to the hearing. Of course, in the event I make it downtown for the hearing, I'll be fully prepared for some administrative twit to tell me there's nothing to be done and to pay up, with an added penalty of some unspecified, but surely godforsaken, amount simply for deigning to protest and take up his time, because that's how Ray Nagin's administration seems to like to treat its citizens. But I just can't and won't let it slide.

My City Council representative, Stacy Head, will be hearing from me. As well as City Councilmember Shelley Midura, in whose district this affront has occurred. And the Times-Picayune will be getting a communication from me, too.

It's outrageous and disheartening; and it's no wonder people get disgusted with the treatment they receive from municipal government and end up shaking the dust from their boots as they leave the city for more hospitable places.

8 comments:

Eric said...

"Whenever I ask a conservative to demonstrate to me exactly where his or her freedom and liberty is constrained, I mean really constrained, the only semi-palatable answer I can get has to do with taxes."

Well... maybe it isn't the ONLY palatable answer you'll get. ;-)

Huck said...

Heh! Good one, Eric. You kinda got me there. Except I'm not sure I'd say that a parking ticket represents a constraint on my freedom. It's not like they're gonna come put me in jail or prevent me from doing it again. In fact, they'd probably love nothing more than for me to feel free to keep on doing it. Seems to me that they're just saying that they're gonna charge me a premium for this. Even assuming, though, that this represents a constraint on my freedom (and I'll give conservatives some leeway here), I'd still consider this to be in essence a "tax" -- albeit in a different form. It's a fiscally confiscatory behavior, which is what I meant when I said that taxes are the semi-palatable answer to contraints on freedom. But these are just quibbles. Fact is, I still didn't like it, and I still think it's unjust. It represents a cynical abuse of authority.

Eric said...

"Except I'm not sure I'd say that a parking ticket represents a constraint on my freedom. It's not like they're gonna come put me in jail or prevent me from doing it again."

But they will ultimately put you in jail if you don't pay the ticket, Huck, and if you too agressively resist being put in jail, or try to escape, they will kill you. Yes, for parking in the wrong place at the wrong time, such is the power of government. That's why you will pay a ticket from the government, but probably wouldn't pay one from me if I decided I personally didn't like where you had parked and wanted to fine you for it. And that is part and parcel of the conservative argument about freedom: whenever you are coerced to do something, or prevented from doing something, by the threat of force, your freedom has been constrained.

Now, conservatives and liberals, generally speaking, will both profess that some of our freedoms must be limited in order to live together as a society. But conservatives are more likely than liberals to see it (each and every time) as government pointing a gun at somebody to force them to do something, and as such they are more often adverse to enacting those types of solutions to societal problems. Which, in my opinion, is why conservatives and libertarians tend to view modern liberal ideology as being antithetical to liberty... because it often is. Certainly conservatives also have issues where they favor using the brute force of government to enforce certain behaviors, but they tend to favor this less oten, and also tend to admit it for what it is when advocating such a position (whereas a liberal will argue, for example, that universal healthcare would be an extension of freedom and liberty, something it absolutey is not, even if its net result was a positive one for society).


"Even assuming, though, that this represents a constraint on my freedom... I'd still consider this to be in essence a "tax"... "

Fair enough, but I think that just illustrates the conservative point that taxes are the most pervasive and subtle form of government intrusion upon our liberties. You can argue that "outside of taxes, conservatives don't have any valid points about their liberty being constrained", but that's sorta like saying, "outside of flat tires, you really don't have to worry about things that might effect your car's performance."

"Fact is, I still didn't like it, and I still think it's unjust. It represents a cynical abuse of authority."

Welcome to the Tea Party movement, my friend.

Huck said...

Now, conservatives and liberals, generally speaking, will both profess that some of our freedoms must be limited in order to live together as a society. But conservatives are more likely than liberals to see it (each and every time) as government pointing a gun at somebody to force them to do something, and as such they are more often adverse to enacting those types of solutions to societal problems. Which, in my opinion, is why conservatives and libertarians tend to view modern liberal ideology as being antithetical to liberty... because it often is.

What I don't get about what you said above, Eric, is that you recognize that both conservatives and liberals see the need for reasonable constraints on freedoms, yet you claim that, because conservatives see this as a matter of being forced at gunpoint to obey such reasonable constraints and liberals do not, conservatives are more freedom-loving and liberals are not freedom-loving. I'd agree that liberals generally do not see things in such ways as much as conservatives do; but I fail to see how this then makes liberal ideology antithetical to freedom. What is it about being more outraged about reasonable constraints to freedoms that makes conservatives more lovers of freedom and liberty than liberals? I promise you that when liberals perceive unreasonable constraints to freedoms, they will be equally as outraged as conservatives are. It strikes me as a bit disingenuous to say that conservatives can accept a modicum of constraints to freedom (like having enforced traffic rules that keep society from devolving into a dangerous road anarchy like the kinds one sees on the streets of Mexico City) as not only necessary, but also good for the public welfare, and yet if they moan about it more loudly, that makes them more freedom-loving than liberals. There is also a bit of hypocrisy there, too, I think. If the state prevents you from going to your preferred Sunday worship service, I promise you that I would eagerly join up with conservatives in loudly and angrily denouncing such unreasonable constraints on freedom. You are making a leap here about liberals and their embrace of liberty and freedoms that I don't think is born out by reality. Often times, the liberal movement is paralyzed by its embrace of freedom and liberty. Multiculturalism and Political Correctness, things that are often disdainfully associated with liberals by conservatives, represent perhaps a tolerance of the excesses of freedom. For instance, if a majority Spanish speaking neighborhood wants its street signs and menus and driver's application materials printed in Spanish, liberals are more likely, in the name of freedom, to try to accommodate that. Conservative nationalists are not. Liberals want gay couples to have equality under the law so that they can be free to visit a sick partner in the hospital; conservative traditionalists do not. Liberals are much more reluctant to support legislation that restricts the freedom of Muslims to wear their choice of clothing in public; conservative nationalists generally are eager to restrict these freedoms. It just doesn't hold, Eric, that liberalism is more antithetical to freedom because its adherents tend not to complain about reasonable constraints on liberties such as traffic laws that even conservatives accept, just because conservatives think even the traffic laws are being forced on society by gunpoint. Being more distrustful of government does not equal being more freedom-loving.

Huck said...

Certainly conservatives also have issues where they favor using the brute force of government to enforce certain behaviors, but they tend to favor this less oten, and also tend to admit it for what it is when advocating such a position (whereas a liberal will argue, for example, that universal healthcare would be an extension of freedom and liberty, something it absolutey is not, even if its net result was a positive one for society).

Your first point is not altogether true. Or at the very least, it is as much true for liberals as it is for conservatives. For instance, many conservatives would argue that requiring Muslims to shed their traditional head coverings in schools, or requiring Spanish speakers to learn English to fill out a government document, is all done in the interests of ultimately preserving the freedoms and liberties of this country. For every liberal that argues that providing universal healthcare removes what could be a crushing obstacle to the ability of an individual to realize his freedom to develop his full talents and potential, I can point to a conservative who would argue that constricting the freedom of employers to hire workers who do not have piece of paper from the government is also necessary to preserve some grander idea of freedoms and liberty.

Explain to me, Eric, how providing universal health care (i.e. health care for all Americans paid for by the U.S. taxpayer) and providing universal defense (i.e. military defense for all Americans paid for by the U.S. taxpayer) are different conceptually with regard to the notions of securing freedom and liberty. In one instance I pay for someone to fire a gun, or a bazooka, or a surface-to-air missile, if necessary, to save my life and the lives of my fellow citizens, or to make it possible for me to have the freedom from subjugation by my enemy to realize my full potential; and in the other instance I pay for someone to administer a vaccine shot, an appendectomy, or a heart transplant, to save my life and the lives of my fellow citizens, or to make it possibel for me to have the freedom from subjugation by my illness to realize my full potential. It seems to me that, conceptually, the argument is the same.

Eric said...

I spent a good chunk of this afternoon typing up a very long response, Huck, but Blogger ate it when I attempted to post! Good grief!

Here is the Cliff Notes version in three parts:

1) I don't presume at all that conservatives love freedom more than liberals. I don't think that is true. I just think conservatives are, at the end of the day, better stewards of liberty than liberals.

2) When comparing and contrasting the various ways that conservatives and liberals both limit freedoms, it is important to consider how many people are effected by said limitations, and to that end I believe liberals tend to support more sweeping, invasive, and often subtley indirect intrusions on liberty across a wider swath of the population.

3) Universal defense and universal heathcare are conceptually and qualitatively different because we are all destined to eventually die of some type of health problem, and we live our lives in that penumbra no matter what, even if we do all have the best and most affordable healthcare in the world, whereas we are not all destined to become the victims, slaves, and concubines of marauding tyrants. I would not intrude upon your liberty in order to temporarily suspend the inevitable, but I would demand, in exchange for living in a civil society with you, that you contribute to our common defense so that we may enjoy a substrate of stability from which we may each autonomously pursue our interests and pleasures. And I feel earnestly horrid about even having to demand that.

Huck said...

Eric - Sorry you lost the larger post. I would have enjoyed reading it. That's happened to me, too, on occasion. I think Blogger does have some limit on the letter count of posts and will just send large posts that exceed this count to the nether world. In any event, as I am currently a bit pressed for time, I would like to comment now only on your third point.

I would say that you have not proved to me that conceptually universal health care and universal defense are any different in your terms of forcing someone at gunpoint to pay for a particular public good. They may be distinct in terms of content (i.e. health versus physical security -- though even then I can see one arguing the parallels between between the two if you define each a bit more expansively), but the nature of their impacts on human freedom are similar and, more importantly in your framework, the fact of being forced at gunpoint by the state to provide for them would be no different at all. And you seem to indicate as my by expressing you feeling "earnestly horrid" about demanding me to do this. I should point out that while you may feel horrid about demanding that all Americans pay for national defense, I'd bet that a vast majority of conservatives not only don't feel horrid about it, but are rather actually "earnestly enthusiastic" about it -- maybe even more enthusiastic about it than some liberals are about universal health care.

Also, I want to take issue with your characterization of the purpose of health care versus the purpose of national defense. The way that I see a universal health care scheme is not to prolong the inevitable (I know that we all must die), but rather to eliminate an obstacle to one's freedom to reach his or her potential. That's also how I perceive national defense. And I think this is perhaps where our understanding of freedom and liberty is different. You speak of national defense as a necessary evil that you would demand all Americans pay for to keep us free from the predations of a tyrant and the shackles of a tyranny; but yet you don't seem to consider any aspect of ill health, especially curable maladies, as tyrannical predations and shackles. I do. And I think most people do.

Finally, what I also have trouble understanding is why you would put your faith in a government-less market for the provision of health and not a government-less market for the provision of physical security. Why would you force me at gunpoint to pay for your freedom from the predations of a human tyrant that could cripple or kill you, when you could just as easily pay for that yourself through market mechanisms much like we currently have in place for healthcare? Now, I'm not saying that we should go this route, but it certainly seems possible that there would be market solutions to this problem and that the government doesn't have to get involved. The only reason one could argue for government involvement in defense is simply the notion that a communal collaboration through government is ultimately better for all than private individual collaboration through the market. And I'd say: of course. And I'd add: and why not the same for healthcare?

andrew said...

Because at the end of the day, we can not continue to endorse the lack of personal responsibility that is killing America.

People need to lay in the bed they make. In fact, when you sincerely look at the level of fitness you see in the population, you really start to understand why entitling the populace will just bankrupt us.

I mean, how many Americans can not do a single pull up?