Today is my birthday but so far the only present I have received is a $46 parking ticket from Palo Alto Police Agent David Lee.
My car was packed at Lytton Plaza because I have been pretty much working around the clock since Wedesday on the issue of First Amendment rights, music, noise ordinances and a bogus staff report suggesting we ban amplifiers willy-nilly.
For instance, at about 9:55 a.m. I spoke with Barbara, who is Chief Dennis Burns’ administrative assistant, to try to get clarification on incidents that happened Wednesday afternoon at Lytton. I have not heard from Dennis but I did get a quick response from Captain Ron Watson. I missed his first call, within the hour — because I was in Dr. Jordanna Finnegan’s literature class “Poverty and Inequality in America” at Foothill, but called him back around 11 and we spoke for about 20 minutes and compared views on the situation and issues.
The night before I traded voice mails with Deirdre Crommie, whose brother in law Derek Stafford I recall as a Gunn baseball star, who is responding to the staff report as part of her duties at Parks and Recreation commissioner, along with Pat Markevitch and Ed Laiung. Pat and I, along with Sue Webb, who is the Rosa Parks of Lytton Plaza, talked from by cell Wednesday night, and then Pat and I had an impromptu meeting in front of the bank building where Palo Alto Downtown was discussing the item Thursday morning.
Russ Cohen, the PADBID’s $70,000 a year mouthpiece and I enjoyed a lively talk about slide-guitar, public art and the First Amendment, while I was sitting in the same soon-to-be-offensively parked car, for about 20 minutes around 6 p.m.
I left my car parked at the Plaza, 500 Emerson block, at University, next to “Digital DNA” by Maltz and Varela, and walked home; I live in downtown North. I left the car there because I was intending to return after dinner and sit in with Sue Webb’s jam session.
But my girlfriend — the homeowner and arts commissioner — persuaded me to snuggle in front of the tv — we actually watched the German version of the Ron Jones Cubberley “The Wave” story — about “autocracy” — and after walking the dog, she and Frida drove me back to fetch my buggy.
I was actually pulling out — Terry went through the green light — when two officers tapped on my hood and asked me to re-park. Agent David Lee and his fellow public servant said that they had tried to phone me but had no luck. I realized soon enough that at 5 p.m. I had parked somewhere that at 11 p.m. becomes a taxi stand. I was vaguely aware of the general concept but not the specifics since I don’t drink that much in public and I live within blocks of downtown. I rarely use those cabs.
I offered a version of the above to the two officers, as much for my amusement as curiosity to what it would get me. I thanked the officers for their service to our community. I asked how much this would cost me and Agent Lee replied, as it is written on the sheet, $46.
One way to look at it: it cost me $46 for all that I learned to today talking with public officials and public safety about this issue. It’s like a tuition.
And it could have been worse: he said he cancelled the tow truck he had called to remove me; I might have had to pay the tow and stow fee.
On the other hand, since he had not actually written the ticket when I had pulled out of the space, he could have let me go with a warning. I’ve said several times to various people in varying wordings: the amount of staff time and civilian time spent reacting to what is basically the case of a very few individuals — at the Jan. 4 meeting I was in a member of the Friends of Lytton Plaza who is also a former commissioner said it is only two people who support this “draft ordinance” — two very powerful people with seemingly magic ability to get staff and public safety to turn their words into action — turned into bad prospective or actual if not de jure public policy. So on top of about 20 hours I’ve put into this round of Lytton Plaza For The People Not Just The Business, I am $46 in the hole.
I think the taxi stand is a good idea if it saves drunkards from trying to drive. On the other hand, at 12:30 there were about ten taxis lined up and parked on both sides of street– I forgot to count if they were all facing the proper direction or following the parallel versus diagonal suggestions — and no drunkards — so although Agent Lee implied that he had given me a 90 minute grace period, practically speaking my car was not really in the way and would not have been until after last call when, and I can only take their word on it, there is a run on taxis and it can get pretty dicey.
But in this case Agent David Lee was working for the taxi companies, the landlords and the pubs and not for me or you my neighbors and voters and taxpayers and citizens of Palo Alto.
So if Agent David Lee thinks, or is instructed to milk citizens like me for every $46 he is probably also costing us in public relations, good will and other externalities. In the same way I, ironically, oppossed Measure D on the grounds that by attacking public safety collective bargaining rights we could end up getting less for each dollar we pay to (potentially disgruntled) public safety.
Also, and ironically, as we discussed John Steinbeck’s “Tortilla Flat” in Dr. Finnegan’s Foothill class today, I compared a scene in that book to the fact that at Occupy movements the people are asking Police to change sides and march with the rest of the working class. But, and I heard this on NPR or KPFA, a spokesperson from PR Watch in Madison, police seem more likely to consider dissent a form of violence than the did in previous recent history and California police, such as in Davis — and apparently their counterparts in Arizona – are quicker to use pepper spray than the they do Wisconsin.
My citation number is 50567 if anyone who bought pizza to support Paly High Wednesday — Sue Webb, Joel Betts and I, afraid to make music in Lytton after being misinformed by this same Agent Lee and his normal partner Kono about the enforceability of the proposed ban on amplifiers and something about “permits” spent 30 minutes imploring passersby by talk mikes only to “support Paly, buy Pizza” — identifies so greatly with my plight or my actions. I will hold off paying this for a few days — I think you can, hypothetical helpers — just walk up and offer over say $20 to the nice people at 250 Hamilton and say “I want to help pay down citation 50567” and hand over your money. Thanks (and this, from the guy who would not take donations when I ran for City Council in 2009; I will edit to add to see if clerks will actually take amicus or third party donations on this.
I won’t fight this per se.
My main point is that our existing ordinance is fine. The proposed ban on amplifiers is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The staff report weighs a small set of individuals views more than the input of the citizens and commissioners. Sue Webb deserves a Mayoral Proclamation rather than to be made to cry by boys in blue. And I think we should work to educate our neighbors about public safety and their unions to repeal Measure D and maybe then we would get — and we should demand — the highest standards of conduct and performance from our employees, civil servants and public safety.