The city of Santa Monica has a history of being civic minded. Our leaders come from all walks of life, and have demonstrated their devotion in many different ways. They put in long hours and at personal sacrifice, far beyond the wages they earn.
For example, I was reminded this past week of the dedication of Kevin McKeown to the people of Santa Monica when Anne Pearson, a friend of mine who you’ve no doubt seen driving around town in her little yellow car with two big dogs in the back, received a parking ticket.
Her car is an electric vehicle that displays the appropriate decals that allow her electric car to park at meters for the maximum time allowed without having to put money in them. It is one of the city’s progressive laws to encourage people to switch from a fossil-fuel based car to an electric vehicle. Municipal Code 3.16.120 is still on the books and reads: “If your decal is ‘valid and current,'” then “this Section shall not require an operator of a vehicle to deposit payment in a parking meters.”
Anne was parked on Ocean Avenue, across from the Loews Hotel where she works out, and she received a ticket. Possibly it was a mistake by an overworked, tired and exhausted meter maven, or possibly the drafter of this ticket was ignorant of the law that allows electric vehicles to park for free. In any case, Anne did what her lawyer father taught her to do, she wrote to a council member and asked for clarification of the law.
We have good council members in this city, but I must state that the one that has historically been the most responsive to me has been Kevin McKeown. I have received e-mails from him as late at 11 at night and then in the early morning. He generally responds with not just an e-mail but a contact list that includes the important city officials who will resolve the problem that I have brought to his attention.
When Anne wrote to Kevin at 10:03 at night, she received a return e-mail from him at 10:36 that same night, even though he was on his way out of town on vacation, with an answer and the contact information for several city staff members to review the matter.
All of this was brought to my attention for several reasons, not the least of which being that I don’t mind being the first one to castigate City Hall for its abuse of power or its mistakes. I feel that the role of the press is to be the voice against the government and keep them in line, for if not them, who? But I will also be the first to point out the good that is done by the hardworking people who are dedicated to bettering our city.
I had another friend who received a parking ticket in the structure on Fourth Street at Broadway. He was legally parked in a meter, had paid the meter and with time left on the meter still received a ticket for expired time. He is like a character out of a Raymond Chandler novel, a crusty old ex-Marine who likes to swear and tell it like it is with no BS. Luckily I had been with him at the time so I was able to write a declaration in his defense, and with the photo of his valid meter he was able to get the parking gods to set aside the ticket.
Now I understand that mistakes happen, and that in reality the parking officers have a thankless job for which they receive a huge amount of hate and abuse. Considering the thousands of tickets issued each month in our fair city, a few mistakes are bound to happen and if you speak up, and are in the right, you’ll likely be able to correct the situation, which doesn’t make up for the time that it takes to fight City Hall on mistakes, but at least you can say you fought City Hall and won.
David Pisarra is a Los Angeles divorce and child custody lawyer specializing in father’s and men’s rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 664-9969. You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra.