Sunday, March 27, 2011

Fight Tickets Online

The DOT announced this week that it is now possible to contest a parking ticket online. The plan is you can present your defense online and have it reviewed by the same Administrative Law Judges that hear cases in person. The site enables you to state your case and even upload pictures and other evidence for your defense assuming you have and understand that kind of technology. Of course, many are skeptical of a nameless, faceless web personality with the authority to discharge or claim your debt by showing less emotion than a slot machine, but the truth is this is probably a very good thing and a logical step in the continuing transmigration of our lives onto the internet.
With this new tool you can contest a ticket that either because of a fear of hostile PVB judges, even more hostile postal workers, or losing half a day’s work, you might other wise just pay. And if you’re wondering if this kind of internet gambling is legal in this state, why worry? Is it really gambling if you never had much of chance of beating the ticket anyway? Fact is unless your evidence is irrefutable, and even when it is, your chances are not that good.
We all know this and no matter how loud we raise our voices, no one is going to officially acknowledge it. At least with this online service you have another, faster way to put up a fight against a bad ticket and, moving on, better live with yourself. Maybe, along with enough others, you will bring attention to a shady ticket agent, or, if no one’s really even listening, join up with a few hundred thousand others and crash the system.
You can still fight tickets in person which is usually the most convincing defense, or in the mail. This is just another, more convenient way to cast your vote against the injustice and still show up at work on time.
The scary part of the times article (paper version) is the merging of this announcement with news that the Parking Fines Reduction Program is going to come to an end as if somehow this spanking new online hearing system (really only a postage stamp away from the existing mail system) would render a good old fashioned fine reduction unnecessary.
The online fine reduction which everyone has read about here has been a staple of this unlegislated, municipal taxation the city calls "parking fines" for about 5 years and is an important option for people who are seriously looking for a financial break or who just happen to read this blog. No one but city government wants this last dollop of forgiveness to go away, so please click on the Contact the Mayor link to the right and make your opinion count in favor of continuing fine reductions.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Bike Lanes Again.

The bike lanes are in the news again. This week two groups of residents filed suit against the Bloomberg administration over the Park Slope bike lane. Today the Times contrasts this legal action with Park Slope’s supposedly liberal leaning reputation and offers some professional psychology as to why the beloved Park Slope liberals are playing against character. After all, bike lanes are green, aren’t they? But not everybody rides a bike, not all of us has the strength and reflexes needed to ride a bike in NYC, and how many of us can ride a bike to work, or take one to pick up a case of dog food?
We keep hearing about the glorious bike lanes of Europe and how we could be that civilized, but, as many have said before me, and I have said here the automobile is a part of our national identity and we’re not giving that up for the sake of just any “Green.” Cars were a keystone in our country’s history and are still essential to our economy today. From the manufacture of cars and a hundred other related industries (It is estimated that 1 out 10 jobs are automobile related.) to the connections cars and roads made to the most obscure corners of this country, nothing since the pony express had so united and defined America. The mass production of cars launched an economic boon that lasted for a century. Roads were as important and powerful as rivers and they could go anywhere. Automobiles connected and enriched this country. Car became image. Just like cell phones are now.
Nothing the Times has reported is likely to be wrong, including last weeks’ article on DOT Commissioner Jada Khan’s “I know what’s good for you” approach to dealing with a city council and residents who are used to having a say in how it’s city will operate. The story just may go further than that. It’s not that we won’t change. It’s that we want more than a handful of elected (and not so elected) officials making decisions about our character. Where was the community discussion and debate about bicycle lanes? Why not open up the debate to the public and let’s hear what other green ideas are put on the table. For instance, someone might propose that instead of bike lanes, we install bus lanes (and not just on a few avenues with camera ticketing revenue possibilities). As someone who has raised a child in this city on a budget, I can say that nothing is more New York than a bunch of grown people talking baby talk to an infant on a bus, something I’ve never seen in a sunless, noisy, occasionally hostile subway tunnel. Bike lanes are slowing buses down and some city plazas are eliminating routes altogether.
Whether you like this idea or prefer your own, the simple psychology here might be that the backlash created by force feeding these changes into our neighborhoods over and above their impact on businesses or residents or transportation could sour the whole concept of a more green city before it get’s started.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Crash Tax?

Everybody knows the crash tax is the dinner treat, heavy furniture moving, or at least a few interesting travel stories that your friends have come to expect when you visit their expensive and dangerous city and are crashing at their place.
Crashing is an important cog in the machinery of evolution and the migrations of all the great civilizations. Without crashing, ideas or the seeds of ideas may never leave their tiny native villages. Strangers may never collide, argue or fall in love. I, and probably millions of others, never would have made it to New York if we didn’t have that friend’s, relative’s or classmate’s place to land safely. So why, we have to ask, has our Mayor come to propose a new tax on crashing?
Relax. It’s not some kind of 60s backlash thing at all. Turns out, the Mayor is proposing a new tax, to begin this July 1, on anyone who has a traffic accident (apparently also a “crash”) and requires emergency services. The tax will be levied by the Fire Department, the latest in a long line of municipal tax collectors. Now the heroics of those brave men will not only command our respect and admiration, but will also instill anger, fear and resentment as their bills past due, generally not covered by insurance, will arrive in the mail at rates from $365 if there is no fire or injury to $490 if there is a fire and injury to somewhere in between.
Some people are calling it “double taxation” because those services are already paid for by longstanding taxes. Others are just concerned that someone will hesitate to call emergency services when they are needed because of the expense. A few are worried that larger-than-life car chases will now have a tinge of regret. A few more can’t help but notice that our Mayor is going after NYC drivers again. And still others are worried that fearful bystanders who don’t really want to get involved could call 911 leaving you with the bill. But we are just relieved that couches and floors everywhere in this great city will still be tax free and friends’ doors will still be open without fear of taxpayer funded rescue or social taxation. For now.