‘Howdy Pardner’ tickets are gone but not forgotten

I’m visiting from Texas, and I read in your paper a while back that out-of-state plates aren’t ticketed but given a ‘Howdy Pardner’ warning. Last week, I met a friend downtown at 5:30 p.m. and the meter had a sticker saying money needed to be deposited until 6 p.m. My change apparently didn’t cover the entire half hour. But I was aware the city gives breaks to tourists. However, when I returned to my car, I had a parking ticket stamped 5:44 p.m. Is your paper aware that the city is no longer not ticketing out-of-state plates? If the ‘Howdy Pardner’ policy has changed, it would be helpful to visitors to know that fact. I called the police and was told that regardless of the state on your vehicle plates, you will be ticketed. – Barbara Downs of Savoy, Texas

On behalf of the greater Durango community, welcome to our little slice of paradise. We hope you enjoy your stay, immerse yourself in local color, sample fabulous cuisine and explore our rich cultural heritage.

Oh, and spend a lot of money.

And one of Durango’s many keen attractions at which you will drop some vacation cash is the Transit Center, where parking tickets are processed.

A friendly piece of local advice: pay that $9 citation pronto. After seven days, it will double, and after 30 days, you will have to fork over $36.

As you have surmised, when it comes to parking tickets, the city won’t cut anyone any slack. That includes locals as well as folks with Lone Star license plates.

But that’s how it should be.

“Howdy Pardner” warnings were extremely unpopular around these parts and were eliminated years ago.

City Manager Ron LeBlanc couldn’t recall when “Howdy Pardners” rode off into the sunset. Ron’s been at the helm since October 2007.

“I’m not sure if that happened before I came on board, but you can go ahead and blame me,” he said with a chuckle as he checked out the new “Durango Welcome Center.”

You see, we establish a modern, multi-media “Welcome Center” rather than slap cutesy “Howdy Pardners” on windshield.

The times, they are a-changing in this one-horse town.

Amber Blake, the city’s multi-modal administrator who also oversees parking, was equally perplexed about courtesy citations.

“We haven’t given out those warnings in a very long time,” she said. “It’s gotta be more than five years, probably more like seven.”

Anyway, locals detested “Howdy Pardners.”

Durangoans would get a ticket, but tourists would get a waiver – despite violating the same municipal ordinance.

As you said yourself, you thought you had some special parking privileges based on your home state.

This is geographical discrimination. Some would even call it tourist entitlement.

Either way, it’s not fair.

Consider families visiting from Denver. They’d get a ticket in Durango because of their Colorado plates – yet they are very much visitors.

And what about the scores of Fort Lewis College students? They have out-of-state plates but live here most of the year or even year-round if they had a summer job. Or trust fund.

Students quickly learned they could park anywhere anytime with impunity based on the license plates on the SUV their parents gave them for high school graduation.

“I don’t want to seem mean, but parking rules don’t change from place to place,” Blake said. “When you pull into a parking space in any town, you need to put in change in the meter during the hours that paid parking laws are in effect.”

“We don’t want to treat people differently based on their license plate,” Blake said. “We love everyone equally.”

It just so happens that Durango’s love notes come with an orange envelope.

Email questions to actionline@durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 80301. You can request anonymity if you take a moment today and remember all the brave men and women who gave their lives for this great country.