Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Olympia Parking Nazis

I have found from first hand experience that the City of Olympia has an even more lucrative financial scam working than the City of Bremerton’s much-hated red-light cameras.

I’ve had to spend an inordinate amount of time in Olympia lately lobbying legislators on behalf of Port Orchard, working with other local elected officials trying to preserve funding for the Ferry System, while imploring lawmakers to stand up to the ferry unions and fix the underlying financial and mismanagement problems, as well as testifying about various bills that impact the City.

Parking around the Capital is a crapshoot at best. There is metered parking on the Capital campus, but unless you’re there in the wee hours to secure a spot, it’s usually spoken for. There is one hour parking on the streets around the Capital, but here’s where the scam comes in. It’s all zoned parking, so you can only park in the entire zone — which encompasses about a square half mile — for one hour. Moving your car doesn’t help. The City Parking Nazis are equipped with hand-held computers that record your license number and the time your vehicle is marked. If you park anywhere in the zone — even if it’s not in the same space — for more than an hour, you’re ticketed — $15 bucks.

I found this out the hard way when I parked, met with a legislator, and left for an appointment with the City’s lobbyist about 45 minutes later, which took place miles away. I was gone for about 90 minutes, before coming back for another appointment. Although I was parked the second time for less than 30 minutes, I returned to find a ticket on my windshield.

So I called the City, believing an error had been made because I parked the second time in the same block, but in a different space, and thought perhaps since my license plate had been recorded, the Parking Nazi didn’t realize I’d moved. After leaving two messages, upon my third call, I finally connected with someone named Debra (or maybe Deborah), who I was informed was in charge of the Parking Nazis. It was she who triumphantly informed me about the parking zone scam.

When I asked her what the alternatives to parking within the zone are, with that totally uncaring, unreasonable, typically unrealistic, and heavily blasé, from another planet governmental attitude, she suggested I park several miles away in a lot offering a shuttle to the Capital. She told me they run every 15 minutes.

Knowing exactly where that lot is, I replied that it takes 15 minutes to get there from the Capital freeway exit, another 15 to wait for the shuttle, 15 more to ride to the Capital, about five minutes to walk to where my appointment would be, typically 15 to 30 minutes for the appointment, five more to walk back to the shuttle stop, 15 to wait for the shuttle, another 15 to get back to the lot, and 15 more to return to the Capital exit to get on the freeway to go home — total of more than two hours if you count the appointment time, for a 15 to 30 minute appointment. I told Debra (or is it Deborah?) I didn’t believe that was the best use of the City of Port Orchard’s taxpayer dollars, and asked if there wasn’t a more time and cost-efficient solution.

She very pointedly told me none of that was her problem, and perhaps I should either consider some other form of transportation, or just factor in the cost of a ticket every time I came down there. And bureaucrats wonder why ordinary folks despise them…

I’ll tell you this: If someone like that — with what I’d view as a piss-poor attitude — worked for the City of Port Orchard, I’d fire them in a New York minute. But then again, we don’t rip off people who park in our City that way either. And unlike Olympia, we sincerely appreciate them — and the money they spend when they come and visit.

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