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Rolly: Parking woes have a long, colorful history


| The Salt Lake Tribune

First Published Jun 29 2014 04:44 pm • Last Updated Jun 29 2014 08:27 pm

I have written extensively about all parking woes and questionable tickets issued since Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker’s administration installed the new kiosk parking meter system.

But, as several readers have pointed out, it’s déjà vu all over again.

At a glance

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One reader wrote of a time 25 years ago when he stopped at a car dealership in downtown Salt Lake City. He put a quarter in the meter and ran inside for a quick errand. When he returned to his car, he still had five minutes left on the meter, but he had a ticket on his windshield and no parking officer in sight.

He drove directly to the city’s justice court to complain, but was told he would need to schedule a hearing with a judge. He just paid the ticket instead.

Another reader worked as a city parking enforcer in the 1980s, and his supervisors waited with bated breath every time the University of Utah had a home football game.

They would cruise up and down 500 South and surrounding streets around Rice-Eccles Stadium during the game and issue tickets at will. He told me if he didn’t come back on game days with the allotted amount of tickets, he would be scolded.

A happy ending • In the 1970s when several radio and television stations were congregated on Social Hall Avenue, their employees often would hang out for a burger or coffee at Snappy Lunch, a popular greasy spoon just around the corner.

One radio reporter accumulated many parking tickets and failed to pay them on time. He owed more than $100 in fines.

One day, he met then-3rd District Judge Hal Taylor at the Snappy Lunch and parked his car at a meter nearby.

A parking officer, apparently not wanting to wait for the red flag to pop up on the meter, slapped a ticket on his windshield and drove off.

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When the reporter got to his car, accompanied by the judge, they noticed the ticket on his windshield and one minute remaining on the meter.

He contested the ticket, with Judge Taylor as his witness. The city judge, noting the presence of such an esteemed witness as a fellow jurist, dismissed the ticket. Then, he dismissed all the outstanding tickets the reporter had accumulated but had not paid.

The day of anarchy • Late one weekday afternoon in the 1970s, a University of Utah law student filed a motion in U.S. District Court for Utah contesting a parking ticket he got in downtown Salt Lake City.

The motion argued there was no proof he was the one who parked the car at the meter, that it was issued without due process and that his Sixth Amendment right to confront his accuser was violated.

U.S. District Judge Willis Ritter, an eccentric jurist who was frequently overturned by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, issued a temporary restraining order that banned the issuance of any parking tickets in Salt Lake City.

It took one day for the appellate court in Denver to overturn Ritter’s ruling. But on that one day, drivers had a heyday in Utah’s capital city. They double-parked, triple-parked, parked in front of driveways, at bus stops and, of course, in front of expired meters.

It was the original Sagebrush Rebellion. And they just don’t make judges like they used to.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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