Gordon Ducoff was taking a quick trip to the doctor on Binz street southwest of downtown for a blood test. He put enough in the old-fashioned meter to cover an hour and a half.
He came out 20 minutes later to find he had a ticket.
Bad enough, but then he started looking into fighting that $25 ticket. And discovered that the City of Houston pretty much dares you to do so.
If you want to pay the ticket, things couldn't be easier: you can mail it in or you can pay online (in "six easy steps"!!)
If you want to fight the ticket, you have to come downtown, pay downtown rates to park and then take your chances at a hearing.
"I'm a nervous wreck driving downtown, fighting that traffic and then trying to find a place to park," Ducoff, 68, tells Hair Balls.
That, however, is his only option.
The city says:
To contest a citation, you or your attorney must appear in person within 45 calendar days of citation issuance at the Parking Adjudication office, 1400 Lubbock.
If the 45th day falls on a weekend or city holiday, please appear the following working day.
Hearings are held on a first-come, first-served basis, and should take no longer than 30 minutes.
You may bring photos or other evidence to the hearing.
Head to the clusterfuck that is the municipal court building, sit around for a first-come, first-served hearing where you won't have a receipt as evidence because the meter didn't provide one....who's going to give up half a day doing that instead of paying $25?
Or you could just ignore the ticket and take your chances. But Ducoff is an Eagle Scout, so that's not an option. It also means he's likely telling the truth about being paid up at the meter.
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"It just gets me angry that I have to go through all this because of someone else's incompetence," he says.
It's a racket.
Update: Christopher Newport,spokesman for the parking department, has gotten back to us with this response:
Per city ordinance, a resident residing within Harris County must come in person to contest a parking citation. The adjudication office hours are 9 am to 8 pm. Parking is available for $5 at the Municipal Court lot or by the hour at one of the on-street metered spaces in the area. There are several private lots in the area as well. If a customer comes after 6 pm, the on-street meters are free. Those who reside outside of Harris County may contest a citation by mailing a letter detailing the circumstances of their appeal.