Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Kenosha government: Walking over dollars to pickup pennies

Kenosha, the city where I live and practice law, is situated right on Lake Michigan and is located between two world-class cities: Chicago and Milwaukee.  (Well, okay, one world-class city and one nice city with a lot of fun restaurants and a great college basketball program.)  But despite these incredible geographic advantages, Kenosha—especially downtown Kenosha—is often described as grossly underdeveloped, stagnant, and having few meaningful employment opportunities.  Pictured is 56th Street—the heart of downtown Kenosha where my office is located—on a weekday at around 2:00 p.m.  This gives a good snapshot of downtown Kenosha's desolate state of affairs.  I don’t know why Kenosha has been a perennial underachiever, although I suspect it has something to do with local government’s general anti-business attitude, its unwillingness to adapt to a post-Chrysler world, and our insanely high property taxes.  I’ve also been told that our artificially-inflated crime rate—a rate controlled by prosecutorial practices rather than what people would describe as “real crime”—signals to prospective companies that we don’t have an adequate, qualified workforce, thus keeping employers away.  But regardless of the reasons, I recently had a parking-ticket experience on 56th Street (pictured) that epitomizes Kenosha’s general mindset and the reason why it will likely always be what it is.

As you can see in the photo, the heart of downtown Kenosha is nearly always dead—at least on the weekdays.  (My office is right between my two favorite Kenosha watering holes, Pazzo and Wineknot, which can attract some cars on Friday and Saturday evenings.)  There are about 20 parking spots on my side of the street, and often only five-or-so are being used, mostly by lawyers and employees in our office building.  (In the photo, only two parking spots are being used.)  So why would our office’s lawyers and employees get parking tickets on a desolate street where few others need or want to park? 

My first gripe is this: when ticketing me, the city is marking my tires which, if done by anyone else, could constitute criminal property damage.  Getting back to our county’s prosecutorial practices, kids in our community are often convicted for actions that “mar the face or external appearance of” another person’s property.  When kids do this type of thing with chalk, it’s called graffiti and they’re often prosecuted.  When the city does this to our cars they call it revenue collection.  (And the chalk doesn’t come off easily, not even with a good scrubbing.) 

My second gripe is this: why does the city want me to go outside, start up my car, and move it six feet to a different, vacant parking spot every two hours?  No one else even wants to park on this street.  I’ve never seen more than eight-or-so cars filling those twenty-or-so spots during the business hours of any weekday.  And why does the city want me to start up my car and drive it to the courthouse two blocks west, instead of walking there, every time I have a hearing that might last two hours?

It seems the city would rather aggravate the few business owners that are still willing to rent in downtown Kenosha—business owners who are also the only people with any interest in parking there during the weekdays—just so they can get their hands on those figurative pennies.     

Enough griping.  I’m off to pay my ticket.     

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