Officials: Town Attorney Investigating Whether New Canaan Should Change Tire-Chalking Practice 

The town attorney is reviewing the practice of enforcement officers in New Canaan—ruled unconstitutional by a federal appeals court in the midwest—of chalking the tires of vehicles by way of tracking how long they’re parked in the same place, officials said. Though decision made by the U.S. Court of Appeals Sixth Circuit—a jurisdiction that covers Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee—is “weak,” Parking Commission Chairman Keith Richey said at the appointed body’s most recent meeting, “but that was their decision.”

“It’s on the basis of the chalk-marking being a search,” Richey said during the May 2 meeting, held at Town Hall. “And as a lawyer who has studied Constitutional law, i cannot understand how chalk-marking is a search, considering that you have available today photographs, you have license plate readers. Those are not searches, but chalking would be a search.”

He added, “I can tell you that the town lawyer is looking at it, and that until he comes up with decision, we are not following it.”

The three-judge panel’s decision involved the case of a Saginaw, Mich. woman who had been cited by the same enforcement officer 15 times within just a few years, according to a NPR report.

Divided Parking Commission Upholds $30 Ticket for Local Woman Obstructing Two Spaces

Members of the Parking Commission at their most recent meeting voted 3-2 to uphold a $30 ticket for a New Canaan woman cited for obstructing two spaces in a municipal lot downtown. 

Malia Frame during an appeal hearing before the Commission said she typically backs up her GMC Yukon “a few times before I pull into a space.”

“And then I always check the line on my side but I haven’t been on the opposite side,” Frame said during the hearing, held at Town Hall. “So ever since I got this ticket, I have been checking on the other side and I just realized that I have to be more careful when I straighten up. I’m not saying it didn’t happen—I’m happy to pay the fine. It was just an honest mistake.”

The ticket had been issued at 1:03 p.m. on Tuesday, April 2, records show. Seeing a photo of her vehicle for the first time on the night of the hearing, Frame conceded that the Yukon was “ definitely askew.”

“But my problem that day is that I got—I mean I have huge car, I have a Yukon, and it’s every big,” she said.

Commission Votes 3-2 To Recommend Metered Parking on Main and Elm

Saying it didn’t make sense for downtown New Canaan’s best parking spaces to be free, town officials this month voted to recommend installing meters on Main and Elm Streets. The Parking Commission as part of its 3-2 vote at the May 2 meeting also is recommending that the spaces running along the northern edge of Morse Court, which now offer free 15-minute parking, also be metered. “By giving away free parking on the main streets, we create a perverse incentive for people to not use parking in the peripheral lots that are designed to take the load off [Elm and Main Streets],” Commissioner Chris Hering said at the meeting, held in Town Hall. Hering voted in favor of the change, along with Commissioners Stuart Stringfellow and Peter Ogilvie (who long advocacy for this idea was recorded in a recent 0684-Radi0 podcast). Chairman Keith Richey and Commissioner Pam Crum voted against the recommendation.

Editorial: A Change of Leadership on the Parking Commission

“Leadership is about vision and responsibility, not power.” —Seth Berkley

New Canaan needs a change of leadership on the Parking Commission. 

Chairman Keith Richey is to be commended for the length of his volunteer service on the appointed body, which works closely with the New Canaan Parking Bureau and makes recommendations about traffic circulation and off-street lots, including fees for permits and violations, and also hears ticket appeals. He was appointed July 21, 1998, according to records on file in the Town Clerk’s office, and elected chairman March 3, 1999. Yet Richey has failed to create a long-term vision for parking in New Canaan at a time when such forward-thinking is sorely needed, has failed even on minor matters to build consensus within the Commission and has failed by temperament and in practice to collaborate with or support his counterparts in Town Hall—a shortcoming that crystallized last week in his gross mishandling of an important matter now before the town, punctuated by menacing and inappropriate treatment of a municipal department head. New Canaan needs to have a frank discussion about whether its parking rules should change—the times at which enforcement starts and ends, for example, whether those who overstay should be granted a fixed “grace period” or even whether the town should introduce some form of free parking. 

Yet in railing against officers for enforcing parking rules that he himself is responsible for recommending, in wrangling with a parking manager at a public meeting after forcing her into a defensive stance and, after that department head stood her ground and attempted to lighten the mood of the meeting, in issuing a vague and menacing admonition for her to “be careful,” Richey showed himself to be unfit to hold the office of chairman. 

He should step down. If he won’t, we call on the Board of Selectmen to vote him off of the Commission, as per the Town Charter.