Daily Archives: April 26, 2010

Tea party supporters applaud city decision to dismiss parking tickets

Supporters of the “tea party” protests were pleased Monday after Wichita Police decided to dismiss about 45 tickets issued to demonstrators who parked in a permit-only lot during an April 15 tax-day rally near City Hall.

The city government also has decided to ease restrictions on the parking lot — which is next door to City Hall — so residents can use it for activities after 5 p.m. and on weekends and holidays.

Tyler

Tyler

Lynda Tyler of Kansans for Liberty, who organized the tax-day protest and several other tea-party events in the past year, said it’s an example of what citizens can do when they get involved and make their voices heard.

“It’s kind of an interesting example of the tea party movement,” Tyler said. “Americans just want to be treated equally and fairly.”

Police Chief Norman Williams said he and Capt. Troy Livingston reviewed the situation and concluded that in the past, some people had been allowed to use the parking lot after City Hall business hours.

“We wanted to try to do the right thing to be consistent,” Williams said.

Tyler said a number of tea party supporters complained to city officials after a story in The Eagle last week reported that police wrote at least 71 parking tickets in the vicinity of the tax-day demonstration.

That total included 45 tickets written in the parking lot at the Rounds & Porter building, an old city-owned warehouse that police use for evidence storage.

Signs at the entrances to the lot designate it for permit parking only. It is heavily used by City Hall employees during the day, but empties quickly after 5 p.m.

Johnston

Johnston

Sedgwick County Democratic Party Chairman Kelly Johnston, an opponent of the largely conservative and Republican tea party movement, had a mixed reaction to the tickets being rescinded.

“I thought (City Council member Sue) Schlapp put it pretty well, a no-parking rule is a no-parking rule,” he said.

However, he added that he trusts the police chief to make a judgment call on whether there was a deficiency in enforcement that would justify voiding the tickets.

Police said they will work with the Municipal Court to ensure that demonstrators who parked at the Rounds & Porter lot for the tea party will have their tickets dismissed. Those who have already paid will get a refund by mail in 7-14 days, Livingston said.

Schodorf

Schodorf

State Sen. and congressional candidate Jean Schodorf, R-Wichita, attended the tea party and was among those who received a $35 ticket for parking at the Rounds & Porter building.

“I’ve paid my ticket and moved on,” she said of her own fine.

But Schodorf said she had considered filing a bill in the Senate, seeking to make it easier for ordinary citizens to use empty publicly owned parking lots after hours.

“It’s good we don’t need to do that,” she said.

She said rescinding the tickets “shows that government is willing to work with the people.”

Longwell

Longwell

City Council member Jeff Longwell, who attended the tea party and checked out the parking ticket complaints that evening, worked with City Manager Bob Layton to change the rules at the Rounds & Porter lot.

He said the manager agreed that there was little reason to reserve the lot for employees 24 hours a day. “We’re not really using that at night,” Longwell said.

Livingston said two ambassadors — the city’s name for its parking enforcement officers — were dispatched to the tea party to check for violations that could endanger public safety, such as parking too close to intersections or blocking driveways and crosswalks.

April 15 tea party on Central

April 15 tea party on Central

Police were especially concerned because organizers had estimated as many as 2,000 demonstrators might show up. About 850 signed in at the event, Tyler said.

The ambassadors ticketed the cars in the Rounds & Porter lot after receiving complaints from city employees that the protesters were parking there. They warned away about 30 drivers who were in the process of parking at the lot, Livingston said.

All the tickets were written after 5 p.m. and the department’s review found “no public safety concerns or issue that existed in that particular parking lot,” Livingston said.

He also gave the department’s answer to allegations that the city has ramped up parking enforcement to generate more revenue.

Livingston said Wichita doesn’t make money on parking tickets after factoring in salaries and processing costs.

“People get upset if we write tickets,” he said. “People get upset if we don’t write tickets. So we’re in a difficult position.”

Jail consultants miss report deadline

jailpaperworkJustice Concepts Inc., hired by Sedgwick County in August 2008 to find ways to reduce the jail’s population, has missed another deadline.

The firm’s 10-month contract with the county expired in June, and county commissioners recently voted not to give the consultants more time to finish their work with the exception of a few tasks already started.

One of those tasks was a report about whether it would make sense to use closed prison facilities in Labette and Butler counties to house jail inmates.

Justice Concepts said it would turn in its recommendations by April 19 but didn’t do so. Last June, consultant Nancy Insco said the report about Labette County was on the hard drive of her computer at work.

Commissioners are expected to talk about the missing report Tuesday at their meeting with county staff.

City voids parking tickets for tea party activists

parkingticketThe city will waive all the parking tickets given to tea party activists who parked in a city lot for an after-hours rally on April 15, police officials said today.

The move follows a review of the tickets and the city’s policy, which was prompted by stories in The Eagle last week.

At least 45 parking tickets were issued at the Rounds & Porter Building parking lot along Waco Street between Central Avenue and West 3rd Street (see map). The lot has signs posted that say it is reserved for city employees. But it is occasionally opened to the public for event parking or overflow parking at packed city council meetings.

Now the city plans to open the lot to the public after 5 p.m. on weekdays and all day on the weekends, Capt. Troy Livingston said. Read More »