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.

Police will work with Municipal Court officials to void all of the parking tickets written at the Rounds & Porter lot and refund any of the $35 fines already paid, Livingston said. (It could take 7-14 days for refunds to arrive in mailboxes.)

Why void the tickets? Livingston explained it this way: The city’s parking enforcement philosophy is to use discretion and prioritize ticketing cars that could cause a safety problem or are in blatant violation of the law. There was no safety issue at Rounds & Porter. The city has let people park there with prior approval before, and the tea party could have arranged in advance to park there. The city wants to work with them and with other groups to demonstrate their commitment to improving downtown parking.

Livingston said that Wichita Ambassadors were called to the scene of the tea party rally to ensure no vehicles were parked near intersections where they could prevent other drivers from seeing pedestrians. Central Avenue was closed for the rally, and ambassadors didn’t find any safety issues. But they did get complaints about people parking in the Rounds & Porter lot and began issuing tickets — all after 5 p.m.

Tea party activists on Central Avenue April 15

Tea party activists on Central Avenue April 15

Asked about complaints by some that the city is aggressively enforcing the law to generate revenue, Livingston said that when you factor salaries and processing costs the city doesn’t make money on parking tickets.

“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.”