The system is broken - and we can fix it...

The city of Wilmington is in the process of becoming a truly awesome city - a place where entrepreneurs, artists, educators, and businesses create incredible things.

Since October of 2011, the citizens, business community, arts community, Wilmington City Officials, and others have been engaged in improving the parking and parking enforcement issues in the city of Wilmington.

Huge progress has been made and the direction we are going as a community is extremely positive!

This blog chronicles the efforts of all who helped make this happen...

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Press Release from the city of Wilmington

Mayor Says the Public's Faith in Wilmington's Parking and Ticketing Process As Well As The Need for Complete Transparency in City Government Begins and Ends with Him

Posted on  01/20/2012 3:12 pm
Following his announcement this week about steps being taken to ease the public’s concerns about the purpose, fairness and effectiveness of the City’s parking and ticketing system, Wilmington Mayor James M. Baker today chose to present his own recent parking ticket issue as a way to educate citizens about parking laws and explain why what seems like an unfair ticket is not always the case.
The Mayor said he hopes the full disclosure of his story will help to further restore citizen confidence in the ticketing and appeal process. His said his story has served as a lesson to him, and he hopes it will educate citizens on the correct way to deal with a parking ticket.
The Mayor drives a city-issued vehicle. The Mayor also has a valid residential parking sticker displayed on his City-issued vehicle. On the morning of December 19, the Mayor was driving a “loaner” city-issued vehicle because his regular vehicle was in the City’s maintenance shop. The loaner vehicle did not display a residential parking sticker. The loaner vehicle had been parked in front of his Cool Spring residence overnight. At approximately 8:45 a.m. on December 19, the Mayor left his home in the loaner vehicle to attend a meeting downtown. When he returned to his residence at approximately 10:15 a.m., he parked the vehicle in the same block where he was previously parked that morning. At 10:30 a.m., he was issued a parking ticket for violating a City law which prohibits citizens from parking for more than two hours on a City Street without a valid residential parking sticker. If a valid residential sticker is in place on the rear right bumper of a vehicle, then residents are allowed unlimited parking. Residents, such as the Mayor, who have a valid residential parking sticker and have the occasion to drive a vehicle other than their regular vehicle for whatever reason, have the option of requesting to be placed on the “Do Not Ticket” list by calling (302) 576-3980, or emailing a request to The Mayor did not make a request to be placed on the “Do Not Ticket” list. If he had, his vehicle would have been added to the list and he wouldn’t have received this ticket.
What Happened Next?
The Mayor, unaware of the language of the portion of City Code he had violated, protested the ticket the following day, December 20, reasoning that he had proof (his scheduled downtown meeting) that he was not parked in front of his home for more than a period of two consecutive hours on the morning of December 19. The Mayor, or any citizen, may protest a ticket within 21 days of the issuance of the ticket by sending a letter to the Office of Civil Appeals, McLaughlin Public Safety Building, 300 North Walnut Street, 2nd Floor, Wilmington, DE 19801. The Mayor did not write a letter, but asked a staff person in the Mayor’s Office to make a verbal appeal on his behalf stating the reason why he thought the ticket was issued inappropriately. The ticket was dismissed that same day, but was dismissed in error. (More on these issues later!)
What Parking Law Did the Mayor Violate?
The Mayor violated Section 37-225 of the City Code which states:
“Parking within any block, whether at the same location or not, for an aggregate period of time in excess of the time permitted by the department of public works shall be deemed a violation of this chapter; and any person removing a vehicle from any given place on any street, to which this section applies, before the expiration of the period authorized for such location and returning it to any location on either side of the same street within the same block before the end of the first hour beyond the posted limited parking time shall be considered as violating the provisions of this chapter. A conviction of a violation of this subsection shall be punishable by a fine in the amount of $40.00.”
In other words, if a citizen without a valid residential sticker parks along a block where street signage indicates time-limited parking (for example, two-hour parking) and then moves their vehicle from that block, the vehicle may return and be parked in that block on either side of the street for the remainder of the original authorized two hour period. The original authorized time period begins to run when the vehicle’s license plate number is first recorded by a parking enforcement officer. After the authorized period has expired, the vehicle must vacate the block and not return to any parking space on either side of the block for at least one hour, regardless of whether the vehicle moved from the block during the original authorized period. Vehicles returning to the same general area may still park around the corner from their original location or as near as the next up or down block to avoid receiving a ticket.
For example, a car which is parked in a 2 hour zone at 9 o’clock, and which is recorded by a parking enforcement officer at 10 o’clock, may remain parked on either side of the same block, or come and go as often as the vehicle owner chooses, until 12 o’clock. (The unrecorded time period from 9 o’clock to 10 o’clock is not considered against the vehicle). At 12:01, the vehicle must vacate the block and may not return to either side of the block for one hour.”
Because the Mayor returned to his original parking block prior to expiration of the three-hour period, he received his ticket on December 19.
Why Does This Particular Law Exist?
This law was enacted to ensure that vehicles without a valid residential parking sticker (such as those belonging to citizens who work in nearby businesses) do not park for an unlimited amount of time in neighborhoods, thus denying residents who live in those neighborhoods the opportunity to park near where they live. The law is designed to inconvenience drivers, other than residents who live in that particular area, who may try to use parking spaces for which they are not entitled.
What Are the Lessons Learned from the Mayor’s Encounter With This Parking Ticket?
According to Mayor Baker, he has learned a number of things from this ticketing issue which he is sharing with other citizens for the purpose of educating them about parking and to assure them that the City will continue to take all steps necessary to operate an efficient and fair parking program:
  • Obtain a Residential Parking Sticker or make sure that the sticker on your vehicle is valid and current. For more information about how to obtain a parking sticker, visit the City’s website or call (302) 571-4320.
  • If you have the occasion to drive a vehicle other than your own, request that your vehicle license number be placed on the City’s “Do Not Ticket” list by sending an email to or by calling (302) 576-3980. This service is available for only a limited period of time and may not be used as a substitute for failing to register a vehicle in your name and obtaining a valid residential parking sticker.
  • Send a letter of protest within 21 days of the issuance of a ticket if you feel that a ticket was issued inappropriately by mailing the letter of protest to Office of Civil Appeals, McLaughlin Public Safety Building, 2nd Floor, 300 North Walnut Street, Wilmington DE, 19801, or emailing a letter to the Office of Civil Appeals at Verbal requests are not accepted. The Mayor said today it was improper for him to ask a staff person to relay a verbal protest instead of following the rules as other citizens are required to do.
  • If the Mayor’s appeal was submitted incorrectly for a violation of a law that was indeed a true violation, then why was his ticket dismissed? The Mayor today advised all staff, in his immediate office and all City offices, whether involved with the parking/ticketing processor not, to carry out their duties as required by law and not be intimidated by anyone, particularly an elected official or their appointees, into taking any actions they feel are unwarranted or inappropriate. Staff that was involved in transmitting the Mayor’s protest and ticket dismissal has been specifically advised of their errors as well as the Mayor’s error in not submitting a proper protest. The Mayor said today that the ticket was probably dismissed because the protest came from him, but he said this was not proper and will not happen again.
  • After being advised recently by the City Law Department that his ticket should be reinstated, and he should pay his fine because the ticket was issued properly, the Mayor read the specific section of the City Code that he had violated. The Mayor said the language was not clear to him nor was the intent of the law, so he explored whether the law needed to be amended in any way as part of the City’s announced steps to ease public concerns about parking and ticketing issues. The Mayor said he has now concluded that no change in the law is needed because it is accomplishing its intended purpose. However, the Mayor has directed staff currently compiling the list of City parking laws that will be posted on the City website and mailed to citizens to write the list in a way that can be easily understood by the average person, especially when laws themselves are written according to legally required or accepted language. The Mayor said while laws are written in a more formal language, the explanation of laws to citizens should be understandable to all.
  • The Mayor said the City is always willing to review, within 21 days of the issuance of a ticket, any information from a citizen which may prove that a ticket has been issued incorrectly. These can include documents, pictures, etc. which should be sent along with a letter protesting a ticket or mailed to the Office of Civil Appeals, McLaughlin Public Safety Building, 2nd Floor, 300 North Walnut Street, Wilmington DE, 19801.
  • Finally, the Mayor encourages citizens who may be confused about parking laws or the enforcement of those laws to contact the Office of Constituent Services at (302) 576-2489. The Mayor said if this office cannot immediately assist citizens with information, staff will contact other offices on behalf of citizens such as Police, Finance, Law or Civil Appeals in order to provide information to citizens.
In summary, Mayor Baker said today that had he taken the time to read the law he violated or to ask questions about why such a law was enacted, he might not have appealed his ticket, but he respects everyone’s right to exercise their right to appeal.
“As I said this week when we issued the actions to be taken by the City to ease public concerns about parking and ticketing, I don’t like to receive tickets, but the circumstances regarding this particular ticket has caused me to step back and rethink my approach to ticketing as well as the need to educate the public as much as possible,” said the Mayor.
In light of the Mayor’s disclosure of information today regarding his December 19 ticket, and in order to be completely transparent regarding any tickets he has received or appealed since he took office in 2001, Mayor Baker today released a summary of tickets he has received along with their dispositions.
The list is as follows:
  • 31 tickets were issued to city-issued vehicles operated by the Mayor.
  • 25 tickets were paid by the Mayor.
  • Four tickets were dismissed. Two were for expired meters after Mayoral news conferences that were conducted away from City Hall ran overtime. The remaining two, also for expired meters, were dismissed because the meters were broken and would not accept coins. The Mayor reported the meters as malfunctioning, and they were repaired. (Since 2001 the City has extended to event participants including elected officials, community members, media representatives covering an event, etc., a special exemption regarding ticketing for limited time parking at meters when an event to which individuals have been invited by the City exceeds its expected or allotted time limit. The City also has extended this same courtesy to families involved with activities related to funerals as an example.)
  • Mayor Baker paid his remaining two outstanding tickets today. One was a $40 ticket plus a $40 penalty for a violation of limited time parking in front of his home on December 2 which he received because his residential parking sticker had expired, and the other $40 ticket plus a $20 penalty he paid today is the December 19 limited time parking violation which is the subject of this news release.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this blog! I could barely survive in Wilmington on a tight budget because of parking tickets! No matter how hard I tried they'd always get me for something. The ticketing was aggressive. For instance, the ticketing officer on my street could be found at 9:45am browsing real estate brochures of homes for sale on the street or just walking aimlessly checking out the trees. Why? He was waiting for 10am when he could issue tickets for 10-12 street cleaning. This happened all the time. By 10:05 he'd ticket every car in violation. These were $40 tickets! Within 5 minutes of violation, the whole street would be ticketed without fail. There were no days of grace. And I can't bear this argument: Those cars were in violation, so they got what they deserved. That's so wrong, and no doubt comes from someone that doesn't live in Wilmington. The rules are in place to keep order in the city. They should not be used to raise city revenue. The philosophy behind the ticketing is wrong. The threat of a ticket is what keeps order--the guarantee of a ticket for every minor violation creates anger.

    And for people on tight budgets it creates paranoia. I tried hard to avoid tickets because they were killing my budget. I was having to set aside $100/month for tickets. As a marketing director for a nonprofit publishing company, $100/month was a lot for me. Even being vigilant i was still ticketed for:

    1) Not being parked parallel with the street. My car was at the slightest angle and could not have really been in violation. But what's the use in fighting it?

    2) Parking at night I searched for signs to make sure I was not in violation. In spite of that, I had a ticket the next morning. It was a street cleaning violation. I found a sign high on a telephone pole, covered with tree branches. I took pics of the covered sign, sent them in with my written dispute. They wouldn't take the ticket away. But roughly a month later, the tree branches were cut back so the sign was now visible.

    3) Blocking a crosswalk. There was no yellow curb and I wasn't blocking the area where the sidewalk slopes down. I'm guessing I was just too close to it.

    Anyway, I could go on but those are instances of unfair ticketing practices. And if not unfair, then at least overly strict. I felt targeted. Like my pockets were being drained.

    I have to add that a buddy of mine lived in a rough section of Wilmington. In one year living there--and he never bothered to get a residential sticker!--he got one ticket. The ticket officers are targeting more affluent areas. This would make for smart city policy--they know the tickets will be paid and paid more quickly. I would've felt better just writing the city a lump sum check every month. At least that would've been predictable.

    Needless to say, I will never live in Wilmington without a driveway or designated spot, which rules out a huge portion of the city. So I'm off to the suburbs.