EDITORIAL: People who get parking tickets need a break

York Dispatch

Few things will ruin a day faster than a parking ticket.

Walking up to your car and seeing that slip of paper on the windshield can be frustrating, annoying, infuriating or depressing.

York City has 22 different ways by which drivers can receive a parking ticket, from parking too far from the curb to parking too close to a bridge.

For decades, people have complained about getting parking tickets in York City, whether they're for a parking meter that expired before the driver returned or for parking on the wrong side of the street during street cleaning.

This parking meter in the WeCo district was painted by someone who apparently was very optimistic about its passersby.

There's a section on the York City website just for people who want to complain about their parking tickets. 

But for some people, a parking ticket can be even more problematic. For those who live paycheck to paycheck, a simple parking ticket comes with a big decision: If I pay this, I won't be able to pay that bill. Or, how can I pay this on time when I have 10 days before my next paycheck arrives and no money in the bank?

More:York City mayor wants to give people more time to pay parking tickets

Parking tickets have always been a problem in York City, where they range from $20 for an expired meter to $50 for parking during street sweeping times to $100 for parking too close to a fire hydrant or in a handicapped spot.

And when one of those slips of paper shows up, vehicle owners have five days to pay the fine, or else it starts to grow with late fees, citations, court costs and more.

York City Mayor Michael Helfrich wants to change that.

Helfrich wants to give people some extra time to pay that ticket before the costs mount by allowing vehicle owners 15 days to get the cash to the city.

In his weekly Facebook talk on March 5, Helfrich said he has heard from a lot of people who got a ticket but couldn't pay it within the required five days.

"We don't want people to have to choose between basic needs, such as food, and paying a parking ticket," he said.

With 36 percent of the population of York City living in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, it's easy to see how even a $20 ticket could make a big difference in a family's budget.

Helfrich said he will present a proposal to the city council on March 28 to give people an extra 10 days to pay those parking tickets and also extend the time for paying neighborhood improvement ordinance fines for litter, trash, junked vehicles and other property maintenance issues.

But city council president Henry Nixon has already expressed his doubts about the need to change the ticketing ordinance. 

"My first reaction was, 'Why?'" Nixon said. 

Nixon says that he's never had anyone complain to him about needing more time to pay a parking ticket, and that he would have to have a good reason to change the law as it stands now.

"I'm pretty strong about folks that do something that's against the law, regardless of how petty or small," he said.

Yes, we get it. Even a parking ticket is a law-and-order issue, people can't just park anywhere they want or walk away without feeding the meter and get away with it.

No one is suggesting that the city do away with parking tickets. It's just a matter of making it easier for people to pay them.

Helfrich has the right idea on this. Getting a parking ticket is bad enough. For many people in the city, scraping together the money to pay for it in just five days can push already stressed finances too far.

Giving people an extra 10 days to pay a parking ticket builds a little community trust and takes a burden from both the people paying and the city employees keeping track of those tickets. The city council should get behind Helfrich on this one.