Parking boots

The city of Durango’s operations director deserves a blue ribbon for keeping a straight face when delivering the suggestion to the City Council that the parking division be allowed to boot scofflaw vehicles after just one unpaid parking ticket. Roy Petersen told councilors that the current three-ticket threshold is “hard to manage, and it’s not very good customer service.” That, and it takes three tickets before the city can levy a $50 boot fee. It would sure be a lot less confusing to be able to do so after just one ticket.

Instead of owning up to what is surely driving this proposed policy change, Petersen told the City Council the woeful tale of vehicle owners whose cars are driven by others. The former, not knowing of the latter’s wayward parking habits, never learn until it is too late that they have amassed three unpaid tickets and booting is impending.

“It was very difficult and unfair to the folks who didn’t drive that particular vehicle to get a notice one day that says you have three citations that have now doubled twice plus a boot fee,” Petersen said.

That may be true, and these vehicle owners may deserve the city’s deepest sympathy. But what about the rest of us? Under the proposed policy change, everyone, including those who own and drive their cars – which is presumably most of us – will be on the to-boot list 28 days after just one unpaid parking ticket. That strikes of a somewhat happy coincidence for the parking division: While clearing up the purported confusion surrounding the good owner/bad parker circumstances, the city will be able to command $50 a pop twice as quickly as under the current rules. That casts a wide enough net to catch a few visitors who might run afoul of the downtown parking meters – what a memento for Durango’s tourists.

The City Council seems to be missing these rather obvious points and is thrilled at the idea of improving parkers’ satisfaction.

“I think that is a great idea for customer service to send them a notification,” Councilor Christina Rinderle said.

If only the city were so diligently committed to enforcement of other vexing problems. Zoning violations or tubers with open containers would think twice if the stakes were so high, but they are not because there is neither the volume nor the reward in a hard-line crackdown. But if the city were to devote – or garner – as many resources to these violations as it does to parking, renegade mother-in-law apartments would be a thing of the past, and tubers would be teetotalers.

While it is awfully nice of Petersen to be concerned with customer service, it is clear that the city’s parking priorities are more pecuniarily oriented. Turning three strikes into one is utterly transparent: It will net more revenue. The city needs to call it what it is.

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