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Rolly: Murray mayor takes fight over traffic ticket to court

Murray Mayor Dan Snarr believes if the neighboring city to the north put more revenue eggs in the budget basket, like his city does, it wouldn’t have to rely so much on traffic and parking ticket fines.

And it wouldn’t have to try so hard to justify the tickets, he claims.

Snarr points to a November story in The Salt Lake Tribune that noted Salt Lake City’s budget was strained, partially because revenue from traffic and parking tickets has not reached expectations.

He has a personal story to bolster his claim that Salt Lake City relies on tickets to enhance its revenue base. And he is willing to put his money where his mouth is.

Snarr was leaving the Capitol in February after attending a legislative committee meeting when he decided to turn onto Harvard Avenue from State Street to check out historic homes on the block.

He got in the left lane, only to notice Harvard is a one-way street and he couldn’t turn. He sped up to get back into the through lane and immediately was pulled over by a cop who said he was speeding in a school zone.

That’s when Snarr’s stubbornness and sense of right and wrong kicked in. The flashing light designating a school zone was not working, he pointed out to the cop.

Ah, but there was a second flashing light on the far right side of the street that was working, the cop pointed out.

And the debate was on.

The reason there are two flashing lights, one in the median and one on the right, is because State Street is wide and the traffic engineers realized someone in the far left lane couldn’t see the one on the right, especially if there are large trucks or buses in the middle lane, Snarr said.

If the city really cared about the safety of the kids, he argued, they would put a patrol car with its lights flashing in the median to compensate for the busted light, which was out for nearly a week.

The cop was undeterred.

So was Snarr.

He has rejected offers from Salt Lake City Justice Court to take a plea in abeyance and pay a reduced fine. He instead is willing to spend several hundred dollars more than the amount of the fine to take his case to trial. He requested a jury trial, but that was declined because his offense doesn’t rise to the level of requiring jail time if he is convicted.

Snarr will represent himself at trial and has put eight names on his witness list of people he hopes to question on the stand. They include the two crossing guards, an official from the Utah Department of Transportation to explain the street design, and Salt Lake City police Chief Chris Burbank to talk about traffic ticket policy.

Like father, like son • Last month, Mayor Dan Snarr’s son Trevor was looking out his window to the basketball court across the street from his condo at the Birkhill at Fireclay complex in Murray when he noticed a man unhook the handle used to raise and lower the basketball nets and put it in he pouch of his hoodie.

When it appeared the man was about to walk away with the handle, Snarr bolted across the street and told the man to put it back. When the man denied he had taken the handle, Snarr called the police on his cellphone and held the man so he wouldn’t get away.

The arriving officer was Joshua Salisbury, who was Snarr’s roommate when he went to college in Provo. The fact that Snarr had always teased Salisbury for his resemblance to actor Joe Pesci did not deter the officer from doing his job and citing the suspect and keeping the city run by Snarr’s father a little safer.

The suspect, who tried to ditch the evidence by tossing the handle to the side, turned out to be Snarr’s neighbor whom he had never met.

It was just like old home week.

prolly@sltrib.com

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