SUBMITTED BY MIKE KEENAN, SPECIAL.
We attended a Shaw production on June 5. During the play, we were ticketed on Byron Street. At 1:30 p.m., we parked in the last open space available.
My wife warned me about pylons nearby – used presumably as “signage” to preserve several parking spots, trees waiting to be planted on the edge of park grass. I’m careful when parking, using hand controls and requiring space to get in and out, so I thanked her, but there was ample unobstructed room.
We were ticketed ($50) at 2:33 p.m.
Apparently the bylaw enforcement officer had first moved a pylon behind our car to take a picture for evidence. Employing pylons for signage seems invalid and unreliable to me because they are easily moved by children, college students seeking décor, other motorists, wind and bylaw enforcement officers, one of two full-time employees or one of the four summer hires.
Next morning, June 6, I drove back to check for street signage (none) and the trees were being planted so the pylons had remained for 24 hours. At town hall to dispute the ticket, I was given a form to fill out and later notified of a “screening” June 25.
What then of elected representatives enlisted as allies? Does the tail wag the dog at town hall? Some said they would “look into it.” Coun. Stuart McCormack came to my door. (I was impressed.) Coun. Norm Arsenault arranged a coffee date. (Again, impressed.)
When dealing with bureaucratic bullies, I learned to create a paper trail by employing emails and Facebook posts to fully record the proceedings. This tends to annoy those involved. Thus, on the evening of June 28, after watching another play, when we returned in darkness to our car parked in a handicapped spot near St. Vincent de Paul Church, a pylon was firmly wedged into our rear bumper.
To say we were taken aback would be putting it mildly.
Revenue derived from parking and parking violations is a valuable municipal asset. In some, equivalent to a full-time business. Little wonder that hospitals, sporting and cultural events derive large amounts of cash from the citizenry.
Last year’s substantial take for the Town of NOTL is as follows: Gross metered parking revenue: $1,533,015; gross parking violation revenue: $267,330; total: $1,800,345. When in the $2 million range, that’s a lot of cash and incentive to grow more.
I was ready to appear before a justice of the peace to argue my case, but the latest paperwork arrived Friday, July 5, telling me I had to settle up by Tuesday, July 9, or fill in a four-page “Request For Review By Hearing Officer,” appointed by the town, and the fine amount had increased by $10.
Throughout this whole ticketing drama, I believe the town has acted in an underhanded fashion. It seems so unnecessary.
Recently, we were in Stratford to take in some theatre and that municipality seems to have a more pro-active approach to parking. There is a free municipal lot close to the Avon Theatre, free parking along the parkway by the river in front of the Festival Theatre and free parking closer to the theatre. Instead of pylons, I noticed that Stratford employed wooden barriers. They would be hard to move.
After the federal election, Doug Ford will emerge from his lair in Toronto and announce amalgamation in Niagara, if not the entire region as a “city,” perhaps federal ridings such as NOTL, Fort Erie and Niagara Falls. Maybe the moniker suggested by a former councillor on a local Facebook page would be appropriate for the new municipality: “Niagara on the Take.”
* Mike Keenan is a NOTL writer and arts critic for The Lake Report.