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City police crack down on parking in downtown areas

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By David Giuliani

Connie Kemm went to the Plaza Hotel to have lunch with a co-worker last week. When they left, she found an orange marking on her tire.

That marking signaled the city’s new effort to check whether motorists are parking for more than 90 minutes in downtown areas.

Kemm didn’t get a ticket because she stayed there for less than the time limit. But she wasn’t happy with the marking.

“I was annoyed that anyone would mark my tire while it was parked in a legal parking area,” she said.

Ninety-minute limits have been in place for more than 15 years, but it has gone unenforced for much of that time.

The city recently put up more parking signs, but there are sections of the Plaza and Bridge Street areas where there are no signs.

Kemm said she didn’t see any when she went to lunch.

The Police Department showed a reporter the can containing the water-based fluid used to mark tires, the same substance used at the sites of traffic accidents. The markings give officers an indication about how long a person has been parked in a particular spot.

Officers said the markings can be washed off. However, Kemm said it wasn’t easy.

“I had to use quite a bit of elbow grease,” she said. “I don’t want to park there (downtown) routinely if they’re going to mark my tires.”

Manny Martinez of Plaza Burgers said the city should have had a parking plan for new development in the Plaza area before police started handing out tickets. And he said the city needs to put up more parking signs, so motorists are aware of the time limit.

Wid Slick of the Plaza Hotel said his hotel is generally in favor of the parking restrictions. He said his business is negotiating for parking at nearby lots to help customers. Employees are asked not to park on the street, he said.

The Plaza Hotel already directs hotel lodgers to park at the public parking lot next to the Police Department, which is on the Plaza, Slick said.

Slick said he doesn’t expect enforcement during the evenings and weekends, when many functions occur at the Plaza.

“Once people come into our business, we can help them take care of their parking issues,” he said.

The city handed out fliers to businesses before the parking crackdown started; some businesses have posted the notices, including Art and Stones, which is on the Plaza.

Deputy Police Chief Christian Montaño acknowledged that the city is actively enforcing the parking ordinance for the first time in years. He said he could understand complaints that there aren’t enough signs and that police may well recommend more signs be put up.