Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Tickets, towing just don't add up

Residents cry foul as city yanks cars to clean streets

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As I write this, it is Halloween, and appropriately enough, I keep hearing the cackling of the three witches from Macbeth and their famous words from, Act 1, scene 1.

"Fair is foul, and foul is fair."

Why that line?

Well, that will take some explaining.

-- -- --

It was last week, on a mid-morning Wednesday, when Yehuda Tcherni woke, opened his living room curtains and witnessed a chilling scene of a different kind. The city was towing his neighbour's car away and his white Ford Taurus station wagon was next.

The street sweepers were at work.

And not only were the leaves going to be removed from the curbsides of Queenston Bay, so were any vehicles that were in the way. Out the door the veteran Manitoba Marathon runner dashed to move his vehicle and confront a city worker in the pickup truck.

Where was the fair notice of street cleaning?

Tcherni wasn't the only one wondering about that on Queenston Bay or across the city on Oct. 24. Four vehicles on his River Heights street were ticketed and towed that morning, including one registered to Falafel Place co-owner Ami Hassan and another belonging to Jewish Post publisher Bernie Bellan.

City-wide that day, the Winnipeg Parking Authority reported 149 vehicles were ticketed on 50 streets.

Seventy-six of them were given the hook. All of this at a cost of $30 per parking ticket, plus $106.53 per tow.

But we were talking about Queenston Bay and reasonable notice. According to what Tcherni said he was told when he visited the WPA office later the same day, the signs on Queenston Bay were put up between 9:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. the night before.

When it was dark.

And at a time when people might be getting ready for bed or maybe already tucked in.

But the worker in the pickup truck also told Tcherni the city does make exceptions to the ticketing rule. If the vehicles are already parked on the street before the signs go up, city workers are supposed to write down the plate numbers. If the vehicles are still there the next morning when street work starts, the city workers are to give them what's known as a courtesy tow to a nearby street instead of a ticket.

Tcherni recalled how he responded to the city worker. "I said to him, 'How could I get a ticket when my car was parked right in front of my house for days?' "

Tcherni explained his daughter drives the car and she was away in Toronto at the time. The Taurus hadn't been moved since she left. But Tcherni said the WPA told him they had no record of his plate number being recorded prior to the signs going up.

Tcherni wasn't about to let the city get away with what, to him, amounted to highway robbery on the street right outside his house.

So he's already got a June 3 court date to fight the parking ticket.

"I fight when I know I'm right," he told me.

But he's angry about all the running around he'll have to do.

He might have been angrier if he had known what the city's traffic act says about posting notice of street cleaning. While a spokeswoman for the parking authority says the city only has to give 12 hours' notice of street cleaning, that's not precisely what the traffic act says.

It states the signs must be up "after 5:00 p.m. and prior to 9:00 p.m. on the day before, when work is to be carried out between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. of the following day."


What that means in this case is if -- as Tcherni says he was told -- the signs on Queenston Bay were put up between 9:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. the night before, then they were in place well after the legally prescribed time.

When I asked the WPA Wednesday what time the signs went up, they didn't provide an answer.

They simply said they were looking into it. Anyway, it looks and smells as if the parking tickets on Queenston Bay were not only illegally issued, the vehicles were illegally towed.

The WPA should cancel the parking tickets and the towing company should reimburse everyone who was inconvenienced on Queenston Bay. After all, the WPA -- for reasons unspecified -- reportedly cancelled six of those 149 tickets issued city-wide that same day.

But there's a bigger issue.

The city should take another look at the bylaw and give its citizens not 12 hours, but a more reasonable 24 hours' notice of street cleaning.

When I contacted River Heights-Fort Garry Coun. John Orlikow Wednesday, he said he liked the idea and he would pursue it. I hope so. Because I, for one, have had enough of a city hall where what's foul is portrayed as being fair. And the uncollected garbage isn't the only thing that smells.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 1, 2012 B1

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