ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Commentary: Richfield mayor gets a taste of reality

Dog blast it, something just isn't right here. A total stranger breezes into town with pockets full of money and just like that, the long arm of the law reaches into one of those pockets and extracts $10 for illegal parking. The stranger pleads h...

Dog blast it, something just isn't right here. A total stranger breezes into town with pockets full of money and just like that, the long arm of the law reaches into one of those pockets and extracts $10 for illegal parking. The stranger pleads his innocence and the issue makes the headlines.
It has become a public relations nightmare for our beloved leader, King Gary of Doty. In fact, former Richfield mayor Steve Quam got a real life taste of a bureaucratic snafu when he challenged this alleged parking violation and then learned unequivocally that it isn't easy to mess with city hall, no matter where that city is located.
Everything worked out. However, there will be no lingering qualm about it. Sir Steve will get his $10 back, and he and Gary will, hopefully, have a big laugh over this in the near future.
Some noses were tweaked, but wait a minute. I've been there and done that and want to share a couple of experiences that make the Richfield/Duluth caper rank somewhere between little league and cutting our first baby teeth. Former Mayor Quam, you don't know the half of it. Fighting city hall, even for an investigative reporter like me, has its frustrations, but it also takes patience and restraint.
Try this one on for size. It was in the mid 1950s when I received a call at the Budgeteer office from a nice lady who asked me to take a picture of her 5-year-old son who had died. Before I could protest, she advised she didn't have a picture of him and wanted me to take a picture in the coffin prior to the funeral service. I couldn't say no.
I hopped into my 1941 Studebaker coupe and parked on Second Street, not far from where Quam received his citation. I was about two hours early, so I had plenty of time to do a thorough job with my assigned task. It took about 45 minutes. When I returned to the car, the police had been by putting up the No Parking funeral signs, and you guessed it, I got a ticket.
I wasn't angry. Heck, anyone can make a mistake. So on my way back to the comfort of West Duluth, I stopped at the police station and explained the situation to a nice young man. I told him about my mission, and as I explained the entire story, he actually took out a handkerchief and cleared his watery eyes. Then he said, "I'm sorry, sir, but you owe the city $2 dollars."
I paid.
Mayor George Johnson was the mayor at the time. Walt Wiski (I think) was the chief of police. Both of these gentlemen were friends of mine, but I didn't bother contacting either of them.
Can you imagine the damaging editorial I could have written about that experience? And now, I'll share my second tale of woe for your consideration.
This event also occurred many years ago. It was a cold, windy, rainy April day in Duluth, and I parked my car on First Street in front of the Federal Building. I had to run into the Tribune to pick up some material for a Budgeteer ad I had sold to a local merchant. I whipped the coin into the parking meter, turned the knob, and nothing happened. It was raining so I took a chance and ran to the Trib and back. It took about 5 minutes and the rain was increasing. When I got back to the car, you guessed it, the ticket was fastened to my motionless windshield wipers. I retrieved it and when I looked at it, it was blank, there was no writing on it.
Now this was too much, even if I was a block from the police station and it was raining like cats and dogs. I was mad so I wrote down the meter number and ran all the way to the police station where I was met with a smile from a nice lady. After I explained that the meter didn't work, she took the ticket, asked me to take a seat, and then proceeded to put my parking ticket on the hot water radiator.
"Why?" I asked. She replied that after the ticket dries out, the writing will return. So, guess what, I waited 20 minutes shivering in my wet clothing. I told her again of the jammed meter and the fact that it was the only parking place available. She glanced at me, smiled and said nothing. Finally, she picked up the ticket from the radiator and sure enough, the writing returned, and she said gruffly, "You owe the city $2."
I was bummed out, but what's the sense of trying to make a federal case out of it. I hurried to the car and returned to the safety of West Duluth.
Now the moral to this story begs these questions. Should the police officer citing Quam have used common sense? Was the city attorney out of line as stated? Did Mayor Doty overreact or was it the other way around? Who knows, but government rules, regulations and snafus are part of the system, and sometimes you just have to grin and bear it or pursue the issue with patience.
My advice to King Gary of Doty: Stay out of Richfield City. Parking your chariot may be a problem.

What To Read Next
The system crashed earlier this month, grounding flights across the U.S.