Sep 24, 2010

From the Belly of the Beast

The following letter was sent to Michael Donovan from a center city resident. Although I am reproducing the letter with permission from the writer, he wishes to remain anonymous. He lives in the roughest part of town, in the belly of the beast.

I am writing to express my surprise and dismay upon receiving yet another citation from the City of Allentown.
This time a street cleaning ticket. THIS ONE IS FOR 50.00!! It states repeat offender.
I have lived in this city for more than twenty years. I pay plenty of taxes.
I also pay a man to sweep the area in front of my house every single day.
This is unbelievable - I work an all night and come home to no available parking on the non-sweeping side of the street.
By the time I get up I have a ticket on each of my vehicles, one labeled repeat offender.
Michael, I believe you are probably the most reasonable and approachable member of our city council as well as being on the board of the APA.
So I am asking you, just who thought this was a good idea?
People get sick, meetings run long, stuff happens.
Is this really how to construct a GOOD neighborhood?
Now I am in the pool for the city to collect fifty dollars at a time?
This policy is unbelievable and unconscionable.
I realize that the city is hurting for money, but this is not the way to raise revenue.
Sweep tickets, APA tickets, all kinds of inspections, fees to visit fish, and what else?
I really wanted to have a good experience living in this city.
I have done my civic duty.
I fought for years to close down Trinkles bar.
The results of that closing were immediate and positive.
We almost have a real neighborhood here now.
You must not allow the city to tax/fine/extort this kind of money from cash strapped intercity residents.
I will not pay 50.00 for a street sweeping ticket.
The insult is further compounded because there is no redress to these matters prior to the escalation of the fine fee.
No good will come from the City of Allentown continually stepping on the very citizens that stabilize our neighborhoods.
Respectfully,


Michael (molovinsky)
You may absolutely use my post.
I would much appreciate this on your blog.
Mr. Donovan also stated that a 10% tax increase would be preferable to the nickel diming that is occurring across the spectrum here in the city.
So far the city has gotten me this year for much more than a 10% tax hike would have cost.
If instead of hiring more people to issue more citations - producing an endlessly growing circle of pain, maybe we should end the sweep program, disband the parking authority, the redevelopment authority - hell, anything ending with the word authority..... and not stop there.

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

APA is a selective parking officer. Look around the city, especially center city and southside.
Cars park on front lawns, sidewalks, block fire hydrants, and alleys. These actions forbid firetrucks access in cases of emergencies. APA does nothing unless they are "called."

gary ledebur said...

I think that the city has the obligation to keep the streets clean and should have some power to make that happen. Citing vehicle owners who interfere with the greater good of clean streets is desirable. Nevertheless the $50.00 repeat offender fine is unreasonable. There are times in Philly where I have to park illegally and I pay the fine if caught. Nevertheless if the fine escalated every time I had to park illegally, I would find that unacceptable and work to change the policy. I am sure MM and his blog will help redress this injustice.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Donovan also stated that a 10% tax increase would be preferable to the nickel diming that is occurring across the spectrum here in the city.

***********************************

MM -

Taxpayers should be warned - the city is eyeing a real estate tax increase this year. They (the administration and city council) will attempt to justify it by saying that the charter limits how the city can raise revenue. Yet revenues are at an all-time high.

The problem is not revenue. The problem is that this city has a spending problem that the administration refuses to address and council refuses to challenge.

Do not fall for the trick that raising property taxes will somehow lower these fees. Even if the fees are lowered for a short time to give that appearance, they will soon be raised again.

The problem is spending. It's that simple.

Capri said...

I don't really find the $50 repeat offender fine unreasonable. I certainly understand the feelings of the individual who wrote the letter - I have found myself in similar situations and felt the same way. But really - for every person such as the individual who only rarely has to miss the street cleaning move and has extenuating circumstances, there are 5 more people who just abused the fact that the fine was small.

Perhaps a solution would be to make repeat offender status renew on a quarterly or yearly basis. Its really easy to change that setting in the system which makes some allowance for occasional issues that arise, as the author points out, but still ensures that the penalty for repeatedly, intentionally ignoring the street cleaning is appropriate and an effective deterrent for those who need such an incentive.

michael molovinsky said...

capri, with the normal street sweeping fine being $20 or $25, i would not call that fine "so small"

michael molovinsky said...

anon 8:04, i agree with you 100%. the city quietly raised the annual rental unit fee 700%, because they know public sentiment could care less about fairness for landlords. the parking authority, especially the street sweep program, was revenue designed from the get go.

emmaus recently wasted their money on a consultant who recommended a parking authority, among other silliness

Anonymous said...

Allentown's superintendent of recreation abruptly resigned recently and city officials won't disclose why.....

now wonder what happened here!

Anonymous said...

MM
Think you're correct about reputation of landlords. Sorta like realtors and car salesmen.

Anonymous said...

This may explain why so much has gone array in Allentown.

O'Connell said he asked Pawlowski if the reason for Easterling's resignation was public, and Pawlowski said no. "The administration said it was a personnel issue and I trust their judgment," he added.
Courtesy: Morning Call

Anonymous said...

Should be:
Awry.
sorry.

michael molovinsky said...

i'd rather not host comments on the easterling resignation.

the gentleman who wrote the letter in the post is the kind of citizen who allentown can not afford to lose in center city. he's not in either historic district (old allentown or fairground), owns his house and cleans up litter which did not emanate from him or his property. he tolerates noise and rudeness. (he lives near the prison) now he feels punished by the fee driven parking authority and the climate at city hall.

Anonymous said...

MM -

I guess I don't live in Capri's neighborhood because my neighbors think the regular $20 fine is too much. We try our best to look out for each other and make sure that NOBODY on our block gets a ticket.

I have a great deal of sympathy for those that aren't lucky enough to have such neighbors or have extenuating circumstances (such as illness or working nights).

I think some reasonable accomodations should be made for RESIDENTS who get street sweeping tickets in front of their home (perhaps allowing the Authority to waive 2-3 tickets per residence per year).

In an ideal world, we'd all have our vehicles moved. Unfortunately, life sometime gets in the way.

monkey momma said...

I sympathize with the letter writer, and I agree that changes should be made regarding street cleaning and the parking authority in general. It's not clear from the letter how long this individual will be in the pool of repeat offenders, but that would be good to know to determine the "fairness" of this particular rule.

BUT...the rules are clear and posted. It's not rocket science. There are no bonus points for good citizens, unfortunately. I'm sure everyone who parks in the street sweeping zone has a great excuse for why they're parked there. And constructing a good neighborhood also depends on cleanliness, hence the street sweepers.

I feel for the guy, but he's protesting a clearly written policy that he himself admits to violating. Methinks he'd better pay the ticket to avoid further hardship.

michael molovinsky said...

monkey momma, i think perhaps you're losing sight that the "repeat pool" fine is $50. i have observed the parking authority giving street sweep tickets; sometimes 6 a block> big business. frankly the sweeping isn't done nearly as well as the ticket writing. in the western fringes, perhaps 18 th st or so, although they're still ticketing, there really is no litter. then further west, there's no sweeping program or fines. so we have the citizen letter writer getting $50 fines for tolerating living in the 6th St. area, while the person on 20th street doesn't even have to move his car.

local said...

I have to ask if thischaracter demeaning designation of "repeat offender" is supposed to be a gentle reminder from the city we call home?
Or is it a straight up attempt to be more profitable?
I can not believe that any single, working citizen, driving a car, living center city would think this a correct idea.
More than 100% increase on an already overpriced ticket is just wrong.
Where and when was this law enacted?
How many people did it take to make this decision?
Are the people that made up this law in any way subject to or affected by it?

Bernie O'Hare said...

What offends me about thee $50 tickets is they are usually inflcted on peple who have little means to pay them, while the City actually carves parking spots out for places like the Brewworks. It's one reason why I won't visit that bar.

Capri said...

MM, I'm not saying that a $20 fine is small. I'm just pointing out what any invisible-hand loving republican would surely agree with - it would only take me one $20 parking ticket to learn not to leave my car on the street during street cleaning, but apparently $20 is NOT the market-demanded price for enticing many other people to move their car.

As to the question of whether there should be street cleaning or a parking authority with fine-giving privileges, I think that is a worthwhile discussion, but that wasn't how the conversation was initially framed.

My point is that if the point of having a fine in place for not moving your car during street-cleaning is to make it possible to effectively clean the streets, than having a repeat-offender program with increasing fines is an appropriate way to incentivize people to make the effort necessary to move their cars - my initial point was merely that such a program should allow for people who occasionally face extenuating circumstances.

Anonymous said...

Do not be confounded by the obvious.

Allentown is not consumer friendly and the clowns in city hall know they can step on the necks of the residents.

One of their primary enforcement arms is the parking authority.

These outrageous fees are only compounded by the reality that if you do not pay the ticket on time your vehicle will be booted.

The mayor does not know the meaning of customer service. To him the residents of this city are expendable and are ONLY a source of cash flow.

Easy come, easy go. Whether it be a new housing project, a new restaurant or the parking "in"-authority it does not matter.

Those who are the back bone of this this city and sustain it will only end up leaving.

All of the boarded up and burned out buildings will be renovated by a pay for play buddy and turned into "mixed housing" as a pre-cursor to the delusion that eventually gentrification will happen.

Then all the civic leaders will be able to cash in on the depressed real estate they picked up as they were chasing the citizens "out of town".

But it will not work. This mayor will escort this city into bankruptcy.

Think of it no more pension woes. No more infrastructure costs, no more unions, nothing except a burnt out shell of a city that will end up rivaling Detroit in it's dereliction.

Anonymous said...

Exactly what is an "invisible hand-loving Republican"?

The point of Mr. O'Hare about the people with the least ability to pay high fines is outstanding, as was Mr. Molovinsky's about the luxuries of West End living as compared to center city.

Where are the Liberals to champion the disadvantaged today?

CONFUSED CONSERVATIVE

Capri said...

Re: the invisible hand: If the republicans don't love capitalism and free markets, I don't know who does.

michael molovinsky said...

the locked boot was supposedly for the people who do not pay their fines. SO NOW PEOPLE WHO DO PAY THEIR FINES GET DOUBLE FINED AS REPEAT OFFENDERS? the truth is the parking authority has always been geared to make money on the backs of residents, especially center city residents, they never adopted their mission to regulate parking to facilitate shopping for sake of the merchants.

monkey momma said...

In Manhattan, a parking fine for being in a street cleaning zone is between $45 and $60 for the first time offense.

In San Francisco, street sweeping is on the chopping block, since it is much more expensive (for them) to sweep than the city can afford. It is NOT a money maker there, and it's not clear to me that street sweeping tickets are a money maker here. I would need to see a cost/benefit analysis to agree with that assessment.

$50 is expensive, and it's a regressive "tax" on the folks with the most limited means. But, the parking rules are clear and posted. I do not understand why this man should have the rules waived, unless ALL violators have their fines waived. We don't do a character analysis of the folks who break rules, we just enforce the rules. It's nothing personal, it's just city life.

I personally do not support a 10% increase in taxes, as I believe the city is currently wasting an incredible amount of revenue already. I do not support giving more funds to a mismanaged city in any way, shape or form.

But, I do admire the writer for his efforts to clean up his neighborhood and his city. I appreciate that very much, and I hope he continues his good work. All he needs to do is follow the posted law - the solution to his parking problems is readily available.

Looking To Escape said...

But really - for every person such as the individual who only rarely has to miss the street cleaning move and has extenuating circumstances, there are 5 more people who just abused the fact that the fine was small.
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Years ago I had a somewhat heated conversation with an executive of the Parking Authority over the increasing cost of fines.
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Part of the reason for the increases was that the more modest charges were laughed off by people then moving into the city. Higher fines seems to grab their attention.

Looking To Escape said...

anon 8:04, i agree with you 100%. the city quietly raised the annual rental unit fee 700%, because they know public sentiment could care less about fairness for landlords
.
When a landlord rents to a low income person or family, someone else has to pick up the cost not covered by a low income (or no income resident)renter.
.
A city can over look a small percentage of low income residents, but as the number grows and cuts into city tax revenue, others must pick up the cost. The only one who escapes such cost is the landlord, more so if they do not live in the city. Effectively business, higher income citizens and homeowners are subsidizing the landlord's business.
.
The city needs to equalize this before going to the general population asking for a tax increase.

Craig Friebolin said...

The street sweeping program costs 1 Million Dollars a year to execute (per Richard Young)

Tamara Weller gets paid $100,000+ to run the APA. For that kind of money I EXPECT her to find a less costly, less intrusive, solution to keeping the streets clean and/or solving the parking problems it creates. (Period)

Anonymous said...

Capri,

I'll make a note of that.

Do you know where all the championing for the disadvantaged who don't live in the West End would be at?

STILL CONFUSED CONSERVATIVE

Anonymous said...

Where are the parking rules clearly posted?
When was this policy enacted?

Patrick McHenry said...

Looking To Escape said...

"When a landlord rents to a low income person or family, someone else has to pick up the cost not covered by a low income (or no income resident)renter.

A city can over look a small percentage of low income residents, but as the number grows and cuts into city tax revenue, others must pick up the cost. The only one who escapes such cost is the landlord, more so if they do not live in the city. Effectively business, higher income citizens and homeowners are subsidizing the landlord's business.

The city needs to equalize this before going to the general population asking for a tax increase.

**********************************

Looking,

I realize you want to blame landlords for all the city's ills, but the city could very easily solve the problem by changing and enforcing its zoning code.

To aggressively overtax a group for problems that may or not be theirs as individuals is unfair and wrong.

Anonymous said...

Just another case of A few predatory government thugs eating their citizens.

michael molovinsky said...

patrick mchenry, actually pawlowski and the administration have been playing very smartly to the mentality exhibited by looking to escape, and have been scapegoating the landlords. i.e, increase fee's 700%, landlord of shame>scapegoat of shame. the fact that none of these programs work matters little to pawlowski and escape; escape feels better. 20 years ago the same buildings had middle class tenants with much fewer problems or burden. it wasn't the landlords who desired a lower income, more problematic tenant; it was the social engineers who give $7 million in community block grants to the social agencies which in turn keep attracting more and more low income to the area. the landlords don't profit from this migration, they suffer. what escape doesn't realize is that if the low income didn't live in privately owned buildings, his taxes would be higher supporting public subsidized housing. the only person to say that he would attack this problem, the poverty magnet, was me, in 2005.

Looking To Escape said...

I realize you want to blame landlords for all the city's ills, but the city could very easily solve the problem by changing and enforcing its zoning code.
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I agree with Michael Molovinsky, Allentown as it is today is a monument to poor planning and feel good social policy.
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We have a Mayor who has a sexual fetish for low income housing, bringing in more of what Allentown has plenty of.
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The City screwed up and tax payers have to pick up the cost. Allentown pretty much stuck a knife in the back of business and homeowners here.
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Landlords are not the sole problem. I do think landlords should be the first line of defense in dealing with the problem by policing their properties on a regular basis and they should be given the tools to do so including immediate eviction of trouble makers. Allentown should NOT be their passive income plantation, renting should be a daily hands on business.
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My understanding is many of the troubled properities are held by those that live outside of the city. If that is the case, the Mayor should sledgehammer these people in anyway he can. If they have a complaint, the Mayor can simply suggest maybe property rental is not the sort of business they should be in and that they go find something they're good at.
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I have written a variety of posts on the subject of rentals in Allentown and I think if they were read as a group, you'd see the end result would be better renters, a safer town and better property values (what landlord would complain about that?).
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As things stand now, the equalization is the best tool we have.