Reporter Gets The Boot For Putting His Mind Into Park

A SECOND LOOK

May 26, 1991|By Darren M. Allen

SHERWOOD SQUARE PARKING LOT — Few things in this life are more annoying -- and seemingly less important -- than a parking ticket.

After all, some of us might reason, our tax dollars go to pay for these public lots, streets or garages. So why, then, should we have to pay the government to park on what is essentially public property?

Well, the Westminster Police Department answered that question rather emphatically last week. Yes, that arch-enemy of scofflaws everywhere, the bright orange Denver Boot, was attached to the driver's side front wheel of my snazzy 1988 Plymouth Horizon.

How unfair, how unreasonable, how un-American, I thought, of the government to immobilize my car, without so much as a courtesy phone call to warn me to get it outside of the city limits.

My next course of action -- to look at the easiest way to dismantle the device -- was to no avail. And even if I had succeeded in freeing the car, a 400-foot placard on my windshield announced to the world "DO NOT MOVE THIS VEHICLE UNDER PENALTY OF DEATH." So I kind of figured out the sneaky removal option was probably not in my best interest.

Before I explain the reasonsfor getting the thing slapped on my least-favorite of worldly goods,let me first repeat my philosophical opposition to parking restrictions, especially in a 110-spot, unmetered lot with a two-hour parking limit.

My reluctance to acknowledge the government's right to ticket cars notwithstanding, I find it ludicrous to have a parking lot that requires those of us who work in the buildings adjacent to it to either arrange to park in a farther-away lot for $10 a month or be ever-vigilant for the meter maid, switching parking spaces every two hours every weekday.

And, on top of that, the two-hour limit seems unreasonable for a city trying to attract office space and retail development near Main Street. How many office and retail complexes do you know of that impose such a parking limit?

All that aside, the $25 charged for a violation -- five times the amount charged for parking violations elsewhere in the city -- amounts to, uh, parking lot robbery.

Which brings me back to the infamous Denver Boot, one of thosecreations of technology that would have been better left undeveloped.

You see, in Westminster, anyone who accumulates three unpaid parking tickets and doesn't pay them within 30 days can be booted. Thereare three boots in use in the city, and when one comes off one scofflaw's car, it gets put on another's.

Over the course of my year here, I have accumulated quite a collection of parking tickets. I really paid no attention to them -- a stupid move on my part.

While in college in Illinois, friends with cars also had to avoid the boot -- but really creative folks always could elude the orange monster.

Among the elusive techniques was to apply for a vanity license plate, since the town where I went to school didn't have any way of forwarding ticket records to the Illinois Department of Motor Vehicles. Different license plate, clean record.

Not so here. Most of the ticketsI collected were "earned" before I changed my car's registration to Maryland. I thought I had beat the system.

Last week, I found out the system beat me. To the tune of $405.

Happy parking!*

To Darren, from your editor: It's a shame you didn't heed my wise advice a year ago, when I suggested you fork over the $10 per month for a parking permit.

Your $405 would have covered parking for more than three years.

Ah, but we supervisors are used to our advice going unheeded.

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