When it comes to issuing citations for parking meter violations in Sacramento, do some people get special treatment? Yes.
Tuesday, as hundreds gathered at the convention center for the annual Sacramento Host Breakfast to hear the governor talk about the economy, the word already was out on the street to parking officers: Back off on ticketing.
Apparently, the leniency policy has been in effect for years. The city's parking meter enforcement typically begins each day at 8 a.m. But doors open for the event at 6:30 a.m. and the breakfast doesn't end until after 9 a.m. That means attendees who park at meters would have to pay for up to 90 minutes of time before the enforcement period even begins.
City parking chief Howard Chan said he doesn't want those people to come out after 9 a.m. and discover they had just been ticketed. It makes it look like the city is lying in wait, he said. Thus, the "take it easy" hour.
No doubt, some of those attending the event take advantage of the arrangement by not feeding the meters at all.
Is this an example of the city giving a break to influential people who may have friends at City Hall?
Chan says no. The Host Breakfast people aren't the only ones who get special treatment.
A few years ago, when (less influential) crowds were lining up at county health clinics to wait for swine flu shots, county officials alerted Chan, and he told his troops not to ticket cars parked at meters near health clinics.
The city also sometimes will back away from ticketing people at weddings and funerals, he said, if he is alerted beforehand by the organizers, and as long as parkers are not infringing on neighborhood residents and businesses.
Chan says the city doesn't have a written policy on when to back off. In fact, he isn't too keen on advertising that his department can be flexible.
Leniency is rare, though. Last weekend, we saw a young man in a tuxedo return to his car after a wedding at the McKinley Park Rose Garden to find a ticket in his windshield.
A reader, Arnold Zuniga, recently got what he thought was an unfair ticket at a funeral. So, he wrote a reasoned protest to the city.
He had parked near a fire hydrant that was painted a dull color and was obscured in bushes on the other side of the sidewalk.
He argued: The curb should have been painted red, the bushes trimmed, and hydrant a bright color.
Chan said he will meet with the Fire Department to ask if they can get to and use recessed hydrants if cars are parked nearby. "It may be almost on a case by case basis," Chan said.
If they can, Chan says the city will stop ticketing in those cases. If not, the city will consider painting the nearby curb red.