My favorite all-time sitcom – by a longshot – is ‘The Andy Griffith Show.’ And one of my favorite episodes is 1964’s ‘Barney Sidecar’ in which our intrepid iconic Deputy Sheriff purchases a World War I surplus motorcycle and immediately embarks upon a one-man anti-crime wave.
My second favorite scene from that installment is, as Deputy Fife attempts to chalk tires, someone reaches out from under a car and grabs his chalking stick. For you fellow TAGS aficionados, my favorite clip is the one where the retired townsfolk put the sidecar up on bricks and laugh uproariously as Barney drives away with Andy still sitting in front of the station.
But ain’t that the way it always works? It starts with an overzealous law enforcement officer pushing a regular citizen too far and ends with them successfully fighting back.
All I can say is I’m gonna propose to Saginaw, Michigan, resident and firebrand, Alison Taylor, who, tired of being singled out by overly enthusiastic parking enforcement officer Tabitha Hoskins to the tune of 15 tickets in two years, led the legal rebellion.
Despite the fact that tire chalking has been a tried and true enforcement tactic since well before Deputy Fife graced the small screen, she and her attorneys came up with novel theory. They claimed that, just like it is with placing a GPS on a known drug dealer’s car, touching a vehicle’s tire in anticipation of a crime being committed was a Fourth Amendment overreach that could not be overlooked.
And the three-judge Sixth Federal Appeals Court panel unanimously agreed!
So, with that ruling, tire chalking went the way of the PDA, CD, busy signals, fax machines, and pay phones. As a result, in the words of that late, great philosopher, Warren Zevon, “The [excrement] has hit the fan!”
Before you could say “municipal budget deficit,” all manner of mayors immediately resorted to shrieking about how, like Captain Ahab pursuing a Caucasian whale, they’d appeal this ruling to their dying breath.
Considering that it’s already been done, I can’t wait to see them try. Now, their only option is the Supreme Court, and this particular black dress group won’t overturn a unanimous federal appellate court search and seizure verdict on their worst day.
In their second breath, those same burgermeisters lamented the sudden loss of that six-figure-plus parking ticket revenue. Silly me! I thought it had everything to do with enforcement and everything to do with revenue.
If I were them, I’d be far more concerned with thoose formerly ticketed folks who will inevitably sue to recover that filthy fine lucre. I’m convinced that’ll be Ms. Taylor’s very next step. Think about it! That prospect could amount to billions of dollars going back to formerly errant parkers.
And if I’m the City of Elgin, my next step would be to immediately drop the impending street parking sensor program like it’s hot, because those terrible time tracking devices will be similarly deemed unconstitutional.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a camera, a GPD tracker, a parking sensor, or a policeman’s pryin’ eyes, you cannot surveil a person, place, or thing in ANTICIPATION of a crime being committed without a warrant duly signed by a judge. And that’s exactly what street parking sensors do. It doesn’t help matters much that some of those vendors call it “virtual chalking,” either.
Here’s a perfect example!
Let’s say Elgin City Councilpersons Tish Powell and Corey Dixon were part of a terrorist sleeper cell just waiting to pounce. Considering their ongoing efforts to destroy the city, it’s really not that farfetched. Let’s also say an EPD officer, on a hunch, decided to follow our duo everywhere just to be sure they weren’t about to pull something.
Lastly, let’s say Powell and Dixon caught on to this unwanted scrutiny and took the EPD to court. Until and unless our officer manages to get a warrant, there is no judge in this vast country that would be amused by the officer’s efforts.
“Whoa! Wait a minute, Jeff! What about red-light cameras? They’ve been consistently ruled constitutionally sound.”
Though I disagree with that ruling on the basis of being unable to face your accuser, those cameras only go off when a motorist has actually committed crime, i.e. crossed the “line” and entered an intersection illegally.
So, instead of picking our pockets, what Elgin, and every other similarly affected municipality should do is solve the real problem. C’mon! This whole timed parking place thing has never worked. When I regularly parked on Douglas St. during those five radio show years, despite a 2.5 hour stay, I never got a ticket. (Ironically, my co-host Larry Jones received one shortly after he started doing the show.)
And it’s a good problem to have, too! There was a time when people had no interest in visiting downtown Elgin. The City does pretty well with free municipal lots, but perhaps it’s time to add some new levels. Once that’s done, they can go the Second City route by banning all traffic on the most challenging streets – handicapped folks, deliveries, and public transportation excepted, of course.
That kind of wide-open State Street scenario will draw even more people to those businesses. It’s called “forward thinking.”
Meanwhile, I’m going to be thinking some very fond thoughts of Ms. Taylor, who thankfully, when pushed too far, did not listen to those great philosophers, The Clash. She fought the law and the law lost!