Parking tickets may be a reality in any urban community, but now a New Haven alderman is questioning the fairness of the city’s ticketing policies.
In December, Ward 9 Alderman John Halle submitted a resolution calling for the Board of Aldermen to conduct a public hearing and review of New Haven’s parking ticket appeal process and the operations of the Department of Traffic and Parking.
“I, personally, as an alderman, have received many complaints,” Halle said. “There have been a huge number of complaints about being unfairly treated and the arbitrary aspects of the process.”
Halle said he received complaints about street signs going up without warning and requests for parking ticket appeals being dismissed with little basis.
“I think there should be better coordination between agencies,” Halle said. “The police department needs to be more vigilant. There are not enough department [of traffic and parking] officers.”
Brian McGrath, director of the New Haven Department of Traffic and Parking, said he does not think a review by the board is within its jurisdiction.
“There absolutely doesn’t need to be a review by the aldermen. It’s beneath them. It’s an administrative issue,” McGrath said. “Nor does this department appreciate sitting there for an evening being accused of things that are simply not true. It is both a waste of their time and our time.”
McGrath said that Halle’s constituents might not be aware of the New Haven parking code, but that they should be because the laws have been on the books for a long time. He added that the department gives out about 120,000 parking tickets a year and very few are contested.
“It’s not like any of the practices are new,” McGrath said. “Anybody who has been here a long time should know the parking rules.”
But Ward 1 Alderman Ben Healey ’04 said he supports Halle’s inquiry.
“I applaud Alderman Halle for seriously responding to the complaints of his constituents,” Healey wrote in an e-mail. “Aldermen play a critical role in bringing the concerns of their neighborhoods to City Hall, and that’s what he’s doing in this instance.”
McGrath said many people want to explain the reason for their infraction when they contest a parking ticket, but many of these excuses are not valid reasons to overturn a ticket.
“Contestments are restricted to officers’ errors,” McGrath said. “We don’t want to know why you are blocking a street sweeper, but people don’t understand this.”
Parking Enforcement Administrator Charlie Wailonis expressed similar sentiments.
“It’s a blameless society,” Wailonis said. “The majority of the cases want to tell us ‘I parked illegally because…'”
Wailonis said he does not think the appeals process is flawed.
“I think the hearing procedure is fundamentally fair and offers every person the chance to contest their ticket,” Wailonis said. “It’s the same procedure used in almost every city.”
Wailonis also questioned whether Halle has sufficient knowledge of how the department works.
“Personally I am disappointed in Alderman Halle because he never once contacted me to find out how the procedure works,” Wailonis said.