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Published: Saturday, 8/31/2002

City to consider tougher parking law

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Vehicle owners with three or more unpaid parking tickets in Toledo would be unable to renew their annual registration or sell the vehicle until the fines are paid under an ordinance to be introduced Tuesday.

The proposed ordinance also would raise the fine for a parking ticket from $7 to $10 and would create a Parking Violations Bureau to be operated by the Downtown Parking Authority that would oversee ticket collection.

About the only good news for parking scofflaws is that tickets no longer would be a criminal offense - they would become a civil matter like most other unpaid debts.

A recent investigation by The Blade revealed that more than 53,000 people were dodging more than 120,000 tickets. All told, the city is owed some $400,000 in unpaid fines.

The parking authority tickets cars parked at expired meters, and city police ticket for illegal parking.

If the ordinance to be introduced by Councilman Gene Zmuda is adopted, Toledo and the downtown parking authority could participate in the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles' DETER program designed to help enforce parking laws in participating municipalities. DETER stands for "drivers with excessive tickets excluded from registration."

"We can certainly lessen the burden of government and allow the police department to focus on safety and criminal issues," said Clayton Johnston, president of the parking authority, which also oversees city parking garages.

Mr. Johnson said placing a block on a vehicle's registration until parking tickets are paid is a more effective enforcement tool and collection method than towing - and less of a public relations headache.

"This program is designed to increase the collection rate," Mr. Zmuda said.

In response to The Blade's report, Police Chief Mike Navarre announced a crackdown on parking-ticket violators that was to involve stepped-up towing.

"Quite a few cars" have been towed, Chief Navarre said last night, including one on which $3,500 in tickets had accumulated. He said he supports making parking tickets a civil matter.

The proposed enforcement system will be the subject of a public hearing before a vote by city council, which would not occur until October, at the earliest, Mr. Zmuda said.

The current fine for parking at an expired meter is $7, rising to $10 if the ticket is not paid after 15 days.

The proposed fines as recommended by the downtown parking authority would start at $10, rising to $20 after 15 days, and $35 after 30 days.

A violator who pays the ticket the same day could get a $5 discount.

Among the municipalities that treat parking tickets as a civil matter and use the DETER program are Akron, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, and, locally, Ottawa Hills.



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