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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014

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In Milwaukee Buzz Commentary

Circuit Court Judge Pedro Colon says of parking tickets: "For a supposedly progressive city this is the most regressive form of tax." (PHOTO: Bobby Tanzilo )

Parking tickets are a nightmare of epic proportions


Sit down! Sit down now! Seriously! You won't believe this!

Today's subject is parking in the City of Milwaukee.

I've thought about this a lot over my life, wondering why I hate and fear the parking regulations and those parking checkers so much. But my interest was rekindled by a Facebook post from Circuit Judge Pedro Colon, a guy who I think would be a terrific mayor.

Here's his Aug: 14 post from Facebook:

"Why would you shop in the City of Milwaukee when all you get is a parking ticket? It is not enforcement anymore is just aggressive tax collection -- it's absurd! There was literally two minutes expiration between the time it expired and when I fed it. As I fed the meter he was standing in front of me and never said anything. Came back and had a ticket. For a supposedly progressive city this is the most regressive form of tax."

So the judge is upset and I figured that somehow there has to be a better way. But first we have to figure out just how bad this is. This is where you better sit down.

Here are the 2013 numbers, according to the Department of Public Works:

Number of parking meters: About 6,500.

Number of parking checkers (riding around in jeeps): 60, working three shifts, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Revenue from parking meters: $4,749,275

Parking citations issued: 770,430

Revenue from parking citations: $21,344,212.

I want to repeat one figure: $21,344,212.

That's as much as Aaron Rodgers makes a year. That's about equal to the combined budgets of 15 elementary schools in Milwaukee Public Schools. It's more than the cost to taxpayers of the huge recall election between Scott Walker and Tom Barrett.

You can buy a Honda CR-Z or a Dodge Journey or a Volkswagon Golf for less than that.
As Marcellus said in Hamlet, "Something is rotten in the State of Denmark."

I was going to try to talk to a bunch of bureaucrats about this obscene amount of money raised by handing out tickets. But I backed off when I figured nobody could actually explain it. I mean how in the world can anyone justify something like this?

As Colon points out, this whole thing does nothing to make the city seem like a welcoming place to anyone from outside the city limits. Bayshore Town Center, for example, gives out the tickets but the proceeds go to charity. And they don't have jeeps sneaking around town jumping on us scofflaws.

When I try to figure out what kind of parking regulations we should have my head starts to hurt. Maybe we should just open up all our streets. If you get there in time you get to park. If not you have to park in a parking lot or structure.

We could have some rules. If you live in a place with a parking space or a driveway, you can't park on the street in front of your residence. If a business, like Walgreens, has a permit to operate, one of the conditions could be that a percentage of the spots in their parking lot have to be reserved for non-customers. I mean, how often is a Walgreens lot totally filled?

Like I say, someone smarter than me is going to have to figure this out. But I do have one suggestion.

Somebody who wants to run for mayor should run with a real simple campaign. Forget fixing education and economic development and trash pickup and all the rest of those campaign planks.

The slogan for this campaign should be "Vote Smith! No Fear Parking!"

Talkbacks

Kstohl1 | Aug. 28, 2014 at 8:41 a.m. (report)

For once Dave, you hit the nail on the head. The more staggering number is how many tickets are invalid or disputed. A previous news story about this had this staggering statement from one city official - Our policy, again, is to issue the citation and straighten it out later, So it's not only "come to Milwaukee and get a ticket." it's now "come to Milwaukee where we swindle you and apologize if we get caught."

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Photodavie | Aug. 28, 2014 at 7:49 a.m. (report)

If you want free parking go to Waukesha or Cedarburg. Milwaukee is a CITY, and by that definition it has thousands upon thousands of commuters coming into the city for work/school/etc. To ensure parking is available to visitors (outside of these commuters) there are parking meters. Parking meters w/o parking checkers are pointless. Noone would pay them or obey them. This forces the majority of commuters to park in lots/structures, and provides visitors a place to park as long as they follow the posted rules for parking. Listen, I hate "the man" as much as the next guy. Lord knows I've paid my share of parking tickets at UWM. But this is common sense. Every city in the US has meters and checkers. Every city brings in millions in tickets. Not sure what the big outrage here is. Just because some notable person (to you at least) got a ticket, we need to revolutionize parking in mke? I'm sick of people like you pointing out these HUGE issues w/o having a single solution that makes sense.

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