Derek Gentile | Hit with the rule book: Display that parking placard or pay up

By Derek Gentile

PITTSFIELD — As some people know, I'm fairly militant about people who park their cars in handicapped accessible spots without a handicap license plate or placard.

In fact, in Great Barrington, if I catch someone doing it, I will usually leave a note — always a very nonconfrontational note — reminding scofflaws that they need to keep this space clear for people who need it.

So it was kind of a surprise when, about three months ago, I started getting tickets for parking in a handicapped spot.

I have one of those blue placards. And I am very careful to display it when I park on any street anywhere I go. But I started getting tickets in the parking lot of the Clock Tower building. Which I have to admit, I thought was private property.

And it is, but the city, according to one of our security guys, does have jurisdiction to ticket cars.

So, okay. And the first time I got a ticket, the blue placard was admittedly, on my front seat. I don't display it while I'm driving because it obscures my rear view mirror. So, I went down to City Hall and got the ticket voided by a clerk (I brought in my little blue placard to show that I am indeed, legally parked.)

And to prevent it from happening again, I left my little blue card on the dashboard.

Not good enough. I got two more tickets.

I again trooped down to City Hall and got one of the tickets voided, but not the other. I was told that unless I displayed the placard on the rear view mirror, I would be ticketed.

I just want to point out one more thing: I park in the same handicapped space every day at work. Most of the time, nine times out of 10, I remember to display the placard. And if one wants to put a really fine point on it, I have a walker and a cane in the back seat of the car. A few weeks ago, I actually had my wheelchair in the back seat because I was spending some time at a friend's house after work and well, when one has to get up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, it's easier to slide into a wheelchair than screw the fake leg on.

I don't really blame the city clerks, who are always very pleasant. And to be honest, I don't actually blame the parking clerk (or clerks, I don't know how big the staff is). My suspicion is that whomever makes these decisions was emphatic in stressing that there be no exceptions. And I paid the fine and I have learned my lesson. I'll be better at posting the placard, even if it is private property.

But tell me I'm wrong: It felt like I wasn't being punished for parking illegally. It felt like I was being punished for not knowing the drill. I don't expect the Pittsfield City Council, who have far more important things with which to deal, to address this. And I concede that I may be in the extreme minority, anyway. But it just didn't sit well with me when it was happening.

Reach staff writer Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.


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