Paul Rolly: Parking cops find 'Capitol' offenses in faded license stickers
With recent reports that Salt Lake City's parking revenues are down so much it has left a $1.5 million shortfall, parking enforcers apparently have found a gold mine at the Legislature to help fill the coffers and, some believe, meet their quotas.
Hundreds of cars park on streets surrounding the Utah Capitol every day that lawmakers are in session. The red stickers on license plates use a weak dye and tend to fade. And a faded sticker provides a reason to write tickets for improper car registration.
It's a perfect storm and Salt Lake City storm troopers have taken full advantage, furiously leaving tickets on vehicles near the Capitol since the session began in January.
One problem: Many visitors at the Legislature have connections. They are lobbyists, association leaders, corporate bigwigs and others who may have a cause and communicate regularly with lawmakers.
Once a few of those folks received what they considered unfair $35 citations based on a spurious premise, the proverbial rabbit droppings hit the fan.
(I have written about this practice before, and Salt Lake City is the only jurisdiction I found that issues tickets for faded stickers).
Powerful lobbyist Doug Foxley got one of those tickets and complained to the city attorney's office, but got no satisfaction. Later, his business partner Frank Pignanelli brought up the issue to his wife, D'Arcy Dixon Pignanelli, who happens to be a member of the Utah Tax Commission, which oversees the Division of Motor Vehicles, the distributor of the bad stickers.
She took the matter to the DMV brass as well as city officials. Salt Lake City Councilman Charlie Luke, who also is a lobbyist and is often at the Capitol, then worked with city Parking Enforcement officials to proffer what seems to be a sound solution.
The city had already taken some steps to ease the problem. City spokesman Art Raymond told me that about six months ago, officials decided owners of faded stickers would get a warning the first time. If the sticker remained faded, a second offense would yield a ticket. Evidently, many at the Capitol already had received warnings. And since the same vehicles may be up there every day during the session, a warning could be issued Monday and a ticket issued Tuesday.
So now, thanks to negotiations by the city, the DMV and the Capitol Preservation Board, Parking Enforcement officers are armed with batches of red stickers and will issue just a warning ticket with a new sticker attached to it.
In addition, Allyson Gamble, executive director of the board, sent an email to everyone working at the Capitol that the stickers also are available for free in the board's office, Room 120, at the Capitol.
And Tax Commission spokesman Charlie Roberts says the stickers are available for free at any DMV office and the more than 600 "On-The-Spot" locations (private businesses authorized to offer DMV renewal services).
It all comes down to the proverbial squeaky wheel getting the grease.