Monday, December 27, 2010

Snow Emergency Slip-Up

Jimmy Howard of the Red Wings makes an amazing save.

Red Wings leaving the ice. These two pictures were taken after 8 p.m. on 12/26/10.  That will be important later.
Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman

Yes, yes, I'm tracking my NoMi purchases, but I also hail from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  Like Minnesotans, us Yoopers take our hockey pretty seriously.  So when the Red Wings were in town last night for one of their two yearly visits to my current home state, I gave myself a Christmas present and went to the game.  And although Detroit was missing their leading scorer, they put on the kind of precision-passing clinic that they are famous for.  The game was so lopsided that the home crowd was booing their team halfway through the match.  It was a good night to be wearing a Red Wings jersey.

But enough basking in the glow of my hockey team, this post is about what happened with my car and a towing citation after I went home.  I checked the parking rules before I even left, planning on putting my vehicle on the correct side of the street for the final day of the snow emergency.

But when I woke up, I found...

...this.

My car had been ticketed for parking on the even side of the street during this winter's parking ban.  I did go downtown to contest the ticket, and they kept both copies of the full citation, so I don't have that handy.  But the citation was issued on December 27th at 1:03 a.m.  If you notice, the ticket in my hand pretty much orders the car to be towed immediately.

Here are the rules for parking that we're under right now.  A parking ban has been issued for the city of Minneapolis, meaning parking on the odd side of non-snow emergency routes is prohibited until April 1, 2011, or until the ban is lifted if conditions improve.  During a snow emergency, however, the parking ban is lifted so that people can comply with the rules of the snow emergency and streets can be fully plowed.  For non-snow emergency routes plowed on days 2 and 3, parking restrictions are in effect from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. or until the restricted side is plowed to the curb.  Since I was at the Red Wings/Wild game until 8:30, by the time I arrived at home, I was okay to park on the even side of the street.

Here's what the rest of the street looked like when my ticket was issued:

A neighbor's car that was parked at the same time as mine, but NOT ticketed.

The street had been plowed to the curb, or as close as we're going to get for now.

Visible through the window is the ticket stub from the parking at the hockey game.
So I took the ticket and citation inside and called the county clerk's number listed.  This person was about as bureaucratic as you'd expect a government-trained phone jockey to be.  Oh sure, the ticket might be inaccurate, but if I was ticketed it must mean I wasn't in compliance with something.  And anyway, even though the county handles the collection of the ticket, it's the city's snow emergency rules they were enforcing.  So I'd have to call 311 or go to one of their offices to dispute the ticket.  311 it was.

The gentleman who picked up at 311 was much more helpful.  When I explained my situation (and that a neighbor had the same thing happen to him), the first thing he told me was that I ought to make sure the tow ticket was no longer on the vehicle.  If it was showing, a tow truck could come by anytime to take my car to the dreaded impound lot - even though the ticket was improperly issued and the car was (then and now) legally parked.  Mr. 311 must have had some kind of summoning spell, because quite literally just that moment a tow truck swooped by, like a Nazgul searching for Frodo and the Ring.  (Yes, I am such a geek.)  But just like those beasts couldn't seem to find the ring when no one was wearing it, the tow truck overlooked my car with the ticket removed.

I did file a complaint with 311 regarding the overzealous traffic control officer, and was told this should be resolved sometime next week.  When I said I did have time to go downtown to make sure, I was advised to do that as well.

Spending a day off contesting this crap was like planning to go to the state fair, and winding up at the dentist for a root canal instead, but it had to be done.  After the interminable wait required by state law, they called number 49 and I was up.  The clerk dealing with me first thought that I must have been parked illegally on the odd side of the street because the address on the citation (of the house my car was parked in front of) was an odd-numbered house.  I tried explaining that there ARE no street addresses on the side of 3rd St N that has the freeway sound wall along it.  This wasn't sinking in.

He then (incorrectly) told me that the winter parking ban superseded the snow emergency rules.  I told him of a ticket I got back on November 14th, during that ill-advised snow emergency, where I woke up at EIGHT-OH-TWO to move my car and there was already a traffic control officer issuing a ticket on my vehicle.  "What am I supposed to do then?  Wake up at 7:59 a.m. on snow emergency days, move my car between then and 8:01, and hope that the traffic cop's watch is synchronized to mine?  I just want to comply with the laws, sir."

During the conversation, my cell phone went off, and I didn't answer it.  I should have, though, because it was a gentleman from the Minneapolis Police Department, leaving a message telling me that yes indeed, I was following the law and my car had been improperly ticketed. I found this out only after I left and checked voicemail.

In the end, even though Mr. Trying-to-be-Helpful county clerk still couldn't clarify for me which rules took precedent in a snow emergency, he said he'd be willing to waive this ticket if I paid the November 14th one immediately.  In the same calm and collected voice, I explained that it was my understanding that since I had torn up that particular ticket into very tiny pieces in a fit of cathartic frustration, that should have canceled it out according to the relevant city ordinances (citation needed).

Today's ticket was waived, although only because I paid up on something I already legitimately owed, not because anyone admitted at the time that it wasn't appropriately issued.

The lesson learned here is that even traffic control officers (or in this case, the MPD, since traffic control isn't out at 1 a.m.) can sometimes misinterpret our somewhat conflicting parking rules during a snow emergency.  AND THE PARKING BAN IS NOT IN EFFECT DURING SNOW EMERGENCIES.  So even if you are parked correctly, check your car on a regular basis to make sure it's still there.  If you do get ticketed and/or towed incorrectly, hopefully this post will help you get those fees reversed.

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