Wednesday, March 10

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Inverted thinking resolves sensitive issue

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[MARCH 10, 2004]  Oh, if King Solomon were alive today, he might have appreciated the process and decision Lincoln City Council made on Tuesday evening. For some weeks the council has wrestled on behalf of a citizen about how to solve a residential parking problem.

A citizen petitioned to have a "handicapped parking" sign posted in front of their home. A resident in the home is in a wheelchair, and their access ramps are in the front of the house. Other extenuating circumstances add to the burden of this situation.

The home is right across from Jefferson School, and people who are visiting the school often take the resident's one parking space.

Alderman Glenn Shelton visited the school this week, hoping they might be able to work something out. He learned from the school principal, Mrs. Becker, that she had already notified the teachers and regular delivery people, but the problem is still occurring.

"They have done all that they can," the Rev. Shelton said to his fellow councilmen. But there are still lots of people -- parents, delivery drivers and others -- who come to the school and don't know not to park there.

Compassion for the situation was clear, and everyone was in favor of doing something to help. But there were several issues that needed to be considered.

The city has not put up "handicapped parking" signs in residential areas in the past. This is mainly because it takes an ordinance to put one up and an ordinance to take one down and people move often.

So why not change the ordinances as needed? Well, every request would need to be evaluated. It would not only be time-consuming, it would also be costly. Whenever you change an ordinance there are processing fees. This would need to be done for every sign request. It is thought that allowing just this one could trigger many more requests from others who would like the same consideration.

 

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Last week it was suggested that a "handicapped parking" sign could be put up without an ordinance change. But putting up a sign without an ordinance would not be legally enforceable if other people parked there. Police could not issue tickets to anyone parked in that spot.

Shelton said he would like to reconsider this option as one that would at least deter others from parking there. "At least that will make people think," he said.

The same discussions were laid out and getting nowhere fast when Bill Bates, the city attorney, presented an idea. "I'd almost rather see you put up a 'no parking' sign and not enforce it as to that homeowner," he said.

The city has the right to put up "no parking" signs as needed. Police can ticket any violators but can spare the resident from citation.

Alderman Verl Prather was right in step with Bates as he said, "Right, I'd rather do that."

Other voices endorsed the suggestion and consensus was quickly reached.

The room seemed to pause with a sigh of relief and then Shelton, chairman of the streets and alleys committee, asked Streets Superintendent Tracy Jackson if he thought he would have time to put up the sign the next day (Wednesday, March 10).

So, in a sense the city inverted the option suggested last week. They will put up a "no parking" sign that can be enforced at police discretion rather than a "handicapped parking" sign with no ordinance, which could not be enforced.

Simply put, the person who needs that spot will have the spot; all others will be ticketed. Situation resolved.

Do you think King Solomon would approve?

[Jan Youngquist]

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