She’s been issuing parking tickets for 22 years, a loyal company woman. But she has her integrity. And she has her breaking point.
Smith and three other parking officers are blowing the whistle on a secret July 24th memo issued by the parking department directing meter maids not to ticket cars in affluent neighborhoods. The two specific offenses parking officers were to ignore: parking in the wrong direction and parking on lawns. I know, I know, rich people parking on lawns? WTF?! Life never ceases to surprise. The article claimed it had something to do with narrow streets and emergency vehicles. That’s obviously code for my Hummer couldn’t squeeze past those two Beemers.
The policy, surprise, surprise, has resulted in citations being issued disproportionately to blacks and Latinos. In poorer neighborhoods scofflaws receive tickets carrying fines of $40 to $100, while the ne’er do well Hummer drivers in the tony parts of town receive “courtesy notices.”
I could not obtain a copy of one of the courtesy notices, but it’s not hard to imagine their content:
“Um, excuse me, I know you’re like, busy making money and stuff, and, probably, um, too busy not to face your car forward, but it’d be really cool if, like, next time you could park the right way. ‘cause it like startles me and sometimes little kids cry ‘cause they get confused. I know it’s like, totally lame that we’re hassling you just like you’re skeezy flatland riff raff, but the city is super broke ‘n’ stuff, and my boss is saying that I might have to give you like a real ticket next time, which I’d really be bummed about, even thought I know you could like totally afford it ‘cause your zip code means you probably make, um, like 13 times my annual salary every month, but if you could, y’know, help me keep my boss off my back, that’d be a really solid. I’d owe you so big time. Thanks!! xo!”
Back to hero Smith. She tried – at first – to handle this discreetly. After two decades of irreproachable service, she had no desire to arouse the sleeping tiger that is the parking department. She and the other whistle blowers kept their complaints about the double standard internal, first bringing them to the attention of her superiors.
And what did they do? Well, the article doesn’t say, but I think it’s fair to assume they lowered their sherry glasses and laughed at her before resuming their game of backgammon. And so, finally, Smith took her grievance public.
A rally was held yesterday in front of City Hall.
Said Smith, “It’s not fair. We’re taking the brunt of citizens’ grief on this.” A meter maid complaining about citizen’s grief? That’s like an ice cream truck driver complaining about too many happy children. You know it’s got to be bad.
Shirnell Smith. Meter Maid. Whistle Blower. American Hero.