Guest opinion: Menlo Park visitor sees red over parking ticket | September 26, 2007 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


Viewpoint - September 26, 2007

Guest opinion: Menlo Park visitor sees red over parking ticket

by Jim Walton

This an open letter to Menlo Park City Mayor Kelly Fergusson:

Dear Ms. Fergusson:

Just before 1 p.m. on Tuesday of last week I visited your city and took part in a business meeting at Stacks restaurant on Santa Cruz Avenue.

Before the meeting I parked my car in the lot behind the restaurant and, quite by chance, asked an "attendant" who was punching license plate numbers into a "black box" what was the time limit on parking. "Two hours," he told me.

After my meeting in the restaurant I returned to my car and realized I had left an address I needed in my office, an address I could easily snag from the Internet, so I asked a passer-by where I could obtain Internet access. I was directed to FedEx Kinkos, just across the street.

I looked around the parking lot; it was just before 3 p.m. and (by my best estimate) the parking lot was 50-60 percent occupied, so I convinced myself that the city of Menlo Park would not be dumb enough to fine people spending money in their city. So I decided to run across the road to Kinkos.

At 3:05 p.m. I returned to my car to find it had been ticketed. Next to the car was the "attendant" I had encountered on my way to my business meeting. "You asked me how long you had," he told me. "Just doing my job, just doing my job."

So much for the events that occurred, but now let's take a quick look at this.

1. It's obvious to me that the "attendant" targeted my car. He clearly "logged me in" at 12:52 p.m. and was back at the car at 3:03 p.m. According to the ticket I spent two hours and 11 minutes in the lot. He was waiting for me when I got back to my car. He wanted to "enjoy the moment," and as he said. . ."Just doing my job."

2. So your fair city has now "fined" me $37 for parking in a half-empty parking lot. You have every right to do this, but I'm not sure it's in your own best interest.

I recognize that cities need to control parking, but the circumstances I describe made me realize that this city really is dumb enough to fine people spending money in their city.

So Menlo Park wants to play games with people patronizing their local businesses. OK, I guess it's my serve.

3. I'm a businessman. I spend money in restaurants, in hotels, in gas stations, in gift shops, florists, and so on, and I have the right to choose where I spend my dollars.

Let me make it clear. It will not be in Menlo Park. I don't think it will take you long to realize that this is not a productive way to tax the people patronizing the stores in Menlo Park. You may make $37 here and there, but I promise you, I'm going to get my $37 back from Menlo Park by spending my dollars elsewhere and I'll encourage my business associates to do likewise. There are many viable alternatives quite close by.

4. It is not the $37 that bothers me. I can afford that. It is the process and the "packaging" of the tax you have chosen to levy on visitors to your city. It's the little black boxes to log the "ins and outs" of every car and the mindless monitor who is getting his kicks out of the "gotcha" process, regardless of its impact on your local community. George Orwell would have loved him.

Furthermore, it's the total lack of common sense that goes along with all this — ticketing cars in a half-empty parking lot and the penalizing store patrons. Perhaps you see things differently, but I think it's absurd. Would you go back to Stacks for another business meeting?

So, Menlo Park, enjoy my thirty-seven bucks. I'm going to enjoy getting a lot more of your dollars by not supporting Menlo Park stores and hotels. To your local businesses, my apologies, but you elected these folks. Now it's your serve.

P.S. I am forwarding this note to the Menlo Park Chamber of Commerce. I would be interested to hear if chamber members have some thoughts on this issue.

Jim Walton lives in Sebastopol.


Posted by Jeff, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 25, 2007 at 3:00 pm

You'll be back, Jim.

P.S. Fergie doesn't care.

Posted by Joanna, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 25, 2007 at 3:26 pm

Are you kidding Jimmy?? This is what I read...
Dear Mayor,
I'm a big important businessman. I parked in a 2 hour parking lot. Because it was 50.34% full, I chose to ignore the 2 hour limit. When I came back, a full 11 minutes later, I received a ticket! How dare you and Menlo Park. I can decide that the 2 hour limit is not necessary when there is a good 49.66% space available! Wah wah! The rules don't make sense to me and I can't rationalize them, so I want you to make an exception for me! Wah wah!

Look, it sucks, yes, but I believe that the ticket is valid and right. Rules are rules. I thought you *would* like to know that the Menlo Park city manager makes $200k + per year. More than the Governor!! $200,000.00 - $37.00 = $199,963.00 left...

Posted by Aghast, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 25, 2007 at 4:12 pm

I have to say that this is one of the dumbest Guest Opinions the Almanac has published, and that is saying something.

If the visitor had complained that he didn't see a sign, or that he parked next to a sign that indicated a 3-hour limit and didn't realize it didn't apply to him, he might have presented a better case. As it is, he cannot pretend ignorance of the rules--he goes out of his way to point out that he clarified the time limits. But evidently he's arrogant enough to believe that the limits shouldn't apply to him, even though he knew that a parking officer was recording licenses and ticketing cars.

Though I understand that he's trying to impress us with his wealth (it's not the money, it's the principle) I note that he attends business lunches at Stacks and has to hop across the street to check the Internet. If he were hosting lunches at Left Bank and consulting his iPhone, we might have cause for fretting about losing his business, but I'd say he's pretty small time, and obnoxious to boot. No loss to Menlo Park if he stays away.

Posted by aghast at aghast, a resident of another community
on Sep 26, 2007 at 6:49 pm

I agree with the comments that Jim should not expect the rules to changed for him alone. If there is a 2 hour limit then there is a 2 hour limit. the ticket could have been avoided by simply moving his car, or possibly parking at kinkos...

I am also at a loss as to how he will get his money back by not returning to menlo??? It doesn't give him money back, it just would go to others.

The irony is that comments from people like "aghast" are the true problem with menlo (aside from traffic). The mentality that meeting at stacks vs. left bank, and checking the internet at kinkos vs. an iphone means you are not important is appaling. I bet "aghast" is the type of person that doesn't say thanks when someone holds the door open for them (too important). I moved from menlo 7 years ago after living there my entire life. It had nothing to do with property values, it had to do with traffic, and the increasing number of people that I met that thought money made them special... it doesn't.

I have money, I just don't like to flaunt it, and surely don't think it makes someone more valuable than another.

(Portion removed by Almanac staff)

Posted by It doesn't hurt to smile, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 26, 2007 at 7:15 pm

AaA, your lack of a sense of humor probably didn't help either. Aghast's comment was clearly meant to poke fun at those stereotypes.

Posted by Joanna, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 27, 2007 at 7:40 am

Don't forget that some (maybe a good amount) of the LeftBankerIPhoners are faking it.

Ever see the show, "Keeping Up with Appearances?"

Posted by ugly fomenters, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Sep 27, 2007 at 3:08 pm

you know, every one of you in this thread tried to take this holier than thou position yet all of you make derogatory comments looking down from your perch...menlo park people are all material, the mayor is this and that, the city manager payroll...just take a moment and try to write without foaming at the mouth. you waste all of our time and just spread your anger like a virus.

Posted by Richard, a resident of another community
on Sep 29, 2007 at 10:54 am

The real issue here is that rules need to be enforced firmly and fairly at all times. If you let someone park for 3 hours instead of 2 several times because the lot is only half full, then let him slide when the lot is 65% full and 75% full, but write him a ticket when the lot is 80% full, he will complain. He will say that he has been parking there for 3 hours over and over and never got a ticket, so is isn't fair to start now. He would be right. The only clear, consistent and defensible position is to enforce the rules all the time, regardless of how many empty spaces there are.