It's a clever plan that Mayor Coleman has concocted: Hike parking fines a few-or, in some cases, a few hundred-dollars to help plug the gaping hole in the city budget and prevent taxes from skyrocketing. I might even call it brilliant, if I wasn't so sure that, under this plan, I could very well solve the city's financial crisis single-handedly.
I'm embarrassed to admit that my husband, David, and I have been ticketed or towed for parking violations five times since we moved to Columbus in September. Yes, five times.
The lone towing was an easy mistake, according to the tow-truck driver who took one look at my pained expression before he offered me a lift to the impound lot. I was parked on a side street in the Short North where cars are usually safe from meter maids-except for eight hours on the third Tuesday of May, August and November. That's street-cleaning time. That's when I parked there.
"Sign's hard to see," the driver assured me as I muttered about my stupidity. "I almost feel bad towing people from that street." He had no encouraging words to say a few minutes later when I realized that, while we were headed south toward the impound lot on Whittier Peninsula, I'd left my car keys with my husband-who was still in the Short North.
I have no excuse for our first two tickets. David parked both of our cars facing the wrong direction one night when we returned from a day of errands. I knew it was illegal (having been ticketed for such a violation when I lived in Pittsburgh), but I kept quiet-because I didn't want to hear him (North Carolina born and raised) complain about Communist urban parking laws and because I was too tired to turn the cars around. Besides, the street where we live is only a block long and tucked away in German Village. No one would notice. I was so, so wrong. We each had a $16 ticket waiting for us the next morning.
On the other hand, I take absolutely no responsibility for the third ticket. David was enjoying free wi-fi at a Short North coffee shop when he was ticketed for parking at a meter between the banned hours of 4 and 6 pm.
And the fourth ticket was really Mother Nature's fault. Freezing rain had transformed our brick street into a sea of tightly packed ice cubes and our neighbor's car spun around like a crazed figure skater when he tried to take the bend. David, who was driving behind him, jumped out to help push the car into a parking spot, leaving his own car blocking traffic. When he returned to move it five minutes later, it wouldn't budge. It took 30 minutes and most of a bucket of salt before he managed to glide his Nissan to the curb-facing the wrong direction. (I know, I know.) By 8:15 the next morning, when he walked to the corner to move the car, the police already had been there.
"I try to be a good parker," he lamented later that day. "I know," I said, afraid to reignite his parking rage. But I have a suspicion that we could have gotten away with at least two of our five violations in any other city. Most places only ticket cars left behind when the street cleaners show up, not tow them, and police are likely to call a parking reprieve the morning after an ice storm. But Columbus . . . well, let's just call the city vigilant.
When my brother's car window was shattered with a rock and his car stereo stolen, a cop told him he couldn't help until he got the illegally parked vehicles on the street towed away. And when a friend visited the city, he found two tickets waiting for him on his windshield-one for an expired meter and another for having a bike rack on the back of his car. (Really.)
I understand responsible parking is serious business in a big city. One of my neighbor's most annoying habits is parking his truck haphazardly between two driveways, so we can only fit two cars against the curb instead of three. But ticketing for a bike rack? Come on.
So I'm proposing a compromise for all of the city dwellers who, like me and my husband, just can't catch a parking break. Mayor Coleman, we understand you need to raise fines for the good of the city and we will gladly pay our tickets the next time the cops catch our cars in illegal positions (because, frankly, we're asking for it). But you have to promise us this: Use that
$1.6 million you're likely to make on the higher fines to fund better public transportation, because we just can't afford to park here anymore.
April Johnston is a former associate editor for Columbus Monthly.
This Finale appeared in the February issue of Columbus Monthly.