Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The minimum wage argument, a new view

Recently I posted this gem to my Facebook page and incited some interesting discussion. First of all I agree with all the points Angelica made. But people are still stuck on some points that make it hard to see the bigger picture.

But it's fast food: That's the hang up. People who have good jobs and don't have the problems that these people have look down on fast food as the red headed stepchild of the labor industry. "Flipping a burger" isn't even worth minimum wage to some people I've talked to. 15 an hour is positively asinine to others. But do we understand fast food as an industry and just how it affects job economy?

I'm not saying that fast food deserves 15 dollars an hour, but they, along with a lot of other industries are definitely underpaid. And the food industry seems to get the worst treatment forcing issues of the following:

This information comes from Berkley University and you can read it HERE. The information is dated yet holds true today (only 3 years later):

1: 52% of families of fast food employees are on public assistance as part of the 25% of all employees with families on public assistance. So literally double the number of fast food workers have families on public assistance compared to any other job in the country.

2: The cost of that assistance is about 7 billion dollars a year.

3: Medicaid and children's health insurance account for more than half of those costs.

4: Due to low earnings, food industry families receive an annual average of 1.04 billion in food assistance dollars and 1.9 billion in Earned Income Tax Credit.

5: People working these jobs are more likely to live in or near poverty by federal findings. 43% live at double the federal poverty level or less. At levels like that, you may as well be homeless.

6: Working at full time hours on these jobs has been found to make literally no difference in these factors.

"Just get a new job!"   This is the knee jerk reaction of people who just don't want to be bothered with the real plight of economics in our country. Let me show you two fun points on why that's a stupid move.

1: You just suggested that 3.65 million people just "go get a new job" like it's the easiest thing in the world to do. Sorry, but that's faulted logic when you consider that our national unemployment rate is 3.9%. Depending on the varied demographics that comment also ignores. There are literally not enough of those "good paying" jobs to go around. That is a problem. 3.65 million is the number of fast food employees currently. That doesn't even scratch the number of waiters, cooks, dish staff, and others who don't even get minimum wage because we believe random tipping is enough to live on.

2: Who exactly will you be paying to make your burger if they all even could take that advice?

"Just go to college and get a better job" This comment is even worse. Aside from places like 90% of the country where those jobs don't exist (we aren't just made of big cities you know) there's the issue of taking care of your family while going to school.

Our society loves to bash on the jobless but even people who get whatever job they can (like the same scoffing people tell them to do) it makes no difference as they are judged and trod on. People in food service are routinely abused by customers who think that being a food worker is so low they can treat that person like a slave. They get no benefits and the majority don't get anywhere near even standard part time hours.

"It's only supposed to be a beginner's job anyway." Wrong. Times have changed. Fast food is a multi-billion dollar industry able to compete with any other industry on the block. As I type this, McDonald's is worth 159 BILLION dollars. It's world wide in 120 countries with 36,899 locations serving 68 million customers every single day. In 2015 the fast food industry generated revenue of 200 billion dollars in just the US compared to the 6 billion dollars of 1970. Stop living in the past.

So maybe they don't need 15 dollars an hour. But the problem is more than just 'fast food' and comparing burger flipping to other jobs that are also underpaid. If people made the wages they should, they wouldn't be in the assistance programs and we wouldn't be kicking people out of nursing homes or cutting school programs. There is no logical reason with the capabilities of today's world for anyone who is willing to at least WORK to not be able to LIVE. And this is only part of the actual problem that contributes to these factors. The other side of the coin involves utility companies that raise their rates multiple times a year, gas gouging, ridiculous medical costs, bank charges, and more. Not only do we allow people who are willing to work to wallow in poverty, we allow corporations to suck their blood like vampires.

So when a fast food worker is asking for more pay, they are not comparing themselves to anyone else. They just want to be able to live off their work like everyone else. Not correcting this is literally allowing a cancer in our economy and that my friends is what is asinine.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Gun Control and Never Again; My open letter to set this straight (trigger warning)

My dear wife believes that social media is making me too much of a negative person. She may be right. But I have to tell you, I have seen some of the ugliest and foulest things this year than I have seen in many years beforehand. And I’ve seen death up close and personal. It takes a lot to make me think things are more heinous than death. But in my point of view, that’s exactly what this is.
Children. They’re children. At the end of the day, compared to the rest of us who are supposed to be adults, they are children. Not only that, this is about children and their freedom of speech (1st Amendment) versus the right to bear arms (2nd Amendment) and how far people are willing to go to silence them.

I have never seen any portion of the Constitution that people are so willing to kill or die for than the right to bear arms. Nothing else matters. Nothing else exists. You would think it’s holier than Jesus Christ himself and the slightest breath that only appears to be a threat to it must be silenced forever. The threat need not be confirmed by any form of actual logic. Imagined is more than enough to set some of you off. You can tell me it isn’t true but you’ll never prove it so long as thousands of internet comments say things like:
“Go kill yourself”
“You’ll pry my gun from my cold dead fingers”
“Come and get my guns, I hope you’re bullet proof”
“When you come for MY guns, you’re dead”
And the real whoppers:
“These kids need to go kill themselves”
“Someone needs to teach them what real guns mean”
“They need to shut up because we are about to not give a shit anymore”

That’s how we react to the concerns of these teens who recently survived ground zero of a massacre. Isn’t it easy to be armchair quarterbacks spouting venom at people who just finished burying a friend. A friend I would add who probably bled all over them. A friend they saw die. Yes, because the 2nd amendment is the holiest of holy things and it doesn’t matter if you saw a child’s head chopped off and had it tossed in your lap, you have no right to talk about it. Yes, it’s so easy to tell them to shup up about your rights because that’s all that really matters here. Because you didn’t have to be there. You didn’t have to wipe the brains off the wall. How nice for you.

I swear I have never seen any class of people so morbidly desperate to silence any other. Desperate to the point of photoshopping or searching for dirt to discredit. To name calling and threats. It’s these acts of hate that make me want to puke up my heart. I find them that sickening. And that’s for all you smug people out there who have doing exactly these things and making disgusting claims that don’t change a single thing about the fact that children are dead. And all because of one simple thing you don’t understand.

You clearly don’t have the first damn clue about what it actually takes to change an amendment. Allow me to quote the “Constitutional Amendment Process” from the National Archives as follows in paragraph 2:

The Constitution provides that an amendment may be proposed either by the Congress with a two-thirds majority vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate or by a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the State legislatures. None of the 27 amendments to the Constitution have been proposed by constitutional convention. The Congress proposes an amendment in the form of a joint resolution. Since the President does not have a constitutional role in the amendment process, the joint resolution does not go to the White House for signature or approval. The original document is forwarded directly to NARA's Office of the Federal Register (OFR) for processing and publication. The OFR adds legislative history notes to the joint resolution and publishes it in slip law format. The OFR also assembles an information package for the States which includes formal "red-line" copies of the joint resolution, copies of the joint resolution in slip law format, and the statutory procedure for ratification under 1 U.S.C. 106b.

This means you cannot just waltz in to some government building and rewrite the Constitution. Hell, even the President can’t do that. This requires a massive process and vote and guess what; there is no vote active for changing the Second Amendment. None. Zero. Zilch. Let me put that another way:

No. The only changes that are possible are state by state restrictions that don’t infringe on the second amendment in any way.

Here’s another tidbit you seem to lose in translation. The right to bear arms says only that you have that right. It does not say what those “arms” have to be. That’s why you aren’t allowed to have a 50 calibur machine gun. That’s why you aren’t allowed to have fully automatic weapons. That’s why the AR15 can be brought under scrutiny and banned if the majority of American’s want it that way. Not having the exact kind of gun you personally want, does not mean your rights have been trod upon. You can still buy a gun, but when people take to altering and abusing one form of gun over all others, it’s going to get scrutinized. The same thing happened back in 1988 when Maryland banned a 22 calibur lovingly called the Saturday Night Special because it had become a number one murder weapon and was deemed too easy to conceal.  The AR15 is the number one abused weapon utilized in mass shootings. That seems important. Losing it will not mean the loss of all your guns, no matter what you think. For that matter, it’s already nearly banned in Florida via a new law just passed.

Finally, one more thing you don’t seem to understand and that’s the definition of the word AMENDMENT. It’s an amendment meaning that it was added or changed after the fact. By it’s very definition it can be legally changed again. If not, there would not be a process to do so. That process would not exist. But it does exist and you are actively pushing people to do everything in their power to pursue it.

While most gun zealots have stomped away from this in seething fury by now, there is still more to say. If you are still here, maybe there’s hope. But I’m not done. Now that I’ve explained the truth of an amendment, I’m going to call out some more of the sick behavior that I’ve seen adults utilize on these kids. I’m talking about the most ridiculous tropes I’ve ever seen.

First of all, if I see one more person compare gun control to abortion I’m going to summon a demon of hell to burn down a gun store. The two have zero to do with each other no matter what bizarre line of imaginary logic you concoct. Someone said Planned Parenthood donated funds to the Never Again movement. That doesn’t make the connection either. Speaking of money. I’m going to point out this doesn’t change the fact that children are dead. If you are a “right to life” person, I would think you could grasp that reality.

No, these people are not paid to march. It doesn’t matter where the money is coming from when the opponents are people like the above. Why doesn’t it matter? Because people are dead and we are sick and tired of them getting dead where they should be safe. So it’s just fine that George Clooney, Oprah Winfrey, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Steve Spielberg all matched donations of 500,000 dollars to march for change.

No, these are not crisis actors. This has to be one of the sickest displays of heartlessness yet. Demanding proof of the dead like you and your armchair have that authority in the slightest way. Because these kids and their families should send you personal photos and obits and government or personal records to prove their dead children ever existed just so you feel satisfied that they have the right to grieve or utilize their own Constitutional rights. That isn’t just wrong, it’s horribly immoral. It’s sick and sickening. It’s a plague on morality and human decency. Some of these conspiracy theorists have gone so far as to track down families who claimed dead in mass shootings to harass and accuse them. How full of yourself do you have to be in order to do this?

Actual comment from someone on Facebook: “ It’s very easy to manipulate kids, because they don’t have all of the true stats and facts about gun deaths, gun ownership and crime.    Like I pointed out above, apparently watching your best friends brains get spattered on the wall just isn’t enough of a qualification for you to care about any of it. Apparently you need to satisfy people like this with some sort of special test before you speak out against the atrocity you barely survived.

These are the things that are forcing me to pick a camp some of you won’t like. Because no matter how many times I say I’m not after the 2nd amendment and there are no current actions against the 2nd amendment, you gun zealots absolutely can not stay in that reality. Yes. You are forcing my hand to stand against you because I value protecting the lives out our children over a bang bang paper weight and the ability to wield it with abandon. What have we done to ourselves that we value any such thing over the lives of our children. What have we become?

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Everything wrong with "more guns in schools".

Every time there's a school shooting that hits the front pages of the media, this national social media explosion happens. Gun supporters go nuts and yell, "throw more guns at it" and frankly, that just isn't the answer. Before you jump on my post and start berating me about how guns save lives and I'm just so wrong because I don't think exactly like you, there are couple things you better consider:

1: I am not against your right to own a gun. I don't want to take your guns away. So just don't go there with me.

2: Read everything before you comment anywhere (whether it be my facebook page or right here). If you are going to react or heaven help me, get triggered, you could do that much. But if it looks like all you read was the title and you just want to dismiss every point I make, then don't bother. Knee jerk reactions help even less than the idea that guns solve all problems. They don't.

I've read a lot of ideas about protecting schools too and most people make these suggestions without taking a few important issues into consideration. Things like actual demographics, locations of schools, what kind of neighborhoods the schools are in, and frankly if the school is a troubled one or not. You can't just throw guns in all schools and expect to change things. I am in particularly going to address the idea that we should now arm all teachers. Now the response I keep getting sidesteps my points.

"I'm perfectly okay with a teacher being armed if they want to be."

I'm not talking about "if they want to be". So don't go there. And before you say this isn't an idea that's out there, you should look at this LINK. This teacher seems to think someone expects her to carry a gun. Now why would she think that? And she isn't alone.. LINK.

President Trump said, and I quote: "An armed teacher woulda shot the hell outta the Parkland shooter."

Really? How does anyone know this? What scale of evidence is there that some random teacher would have shot the hell out of anyone? There are no supportive facts here. It's a knee jerk reaction and a fantasy. It's the land of IF. IF, IF, IF.  It's also the land of ASSUMPTION. Let's just assume any random armed teacher would have stopped the shooter cold. But that isn't what happened. The statement also ignores practically every single detail of how the shooting happened.

Guns do not make people magically pop up in the right place at the right time. Please reread that until it sinks in. If they did there would be no more crime in out country at all. And this is literally the assumption people make when they say, "just put more guns in there".  Guns are not magic talismans so stop acting like they are.

If you aren't willing to foot the bill for what teachers actually need in their classrooms, how can you justify arming them all?  I have literally seen people argue that they are okay with paying taxes to support guns  in schools but not for smaller class sizes or actual educational material. We have schools in poor neighborhoods in need of repairs and services but the response of the taxpayer has been.... "Nuh uh! Not my taxes! I won't pay for that!" But then they turn around and go, "Oh wait? Guns? Yeah I'll pay for guns!" School lunches for kids? Let em starve if they can't pay their own way! But let's put guns in schools, that's a great fix.

Do you understand what arming teachers costs? No? Are you willing to give that teacher a pay raise along with the training needed to carry a gun? No? Are you willing to pay the difference in insurance costs to the schools? There is another class of thought that teacher's should be armed but at their own expense. Well, they are sure used to that since they are expected to do their jobs and buy educational materials at their own expense. To which I call bullshit. If you are going to sit there and say that teachers should be armed, you better damn well be willing to pay for it. Same goes for claiming we should have armed guards in schools, or concertina fences. You want to pay into your taxes for it? No? Then shut up.

It's literally not the teachers job to play security guard! No teacher signs up for their job thinking they get to become paramilitary. That is not their job. I even posted a link above from a teacher who explains the same thing. Teachers are not security guards, or police, or soldiers. They are teachers. In our country we barely pay police enough to carry a gun and God knows we take a massive crap on our veterans when they come home, so lets move on to teachers. If you absolutely must have armed people in any of our schools, you better make sure they are qualified and paid appropriately. Give the job to the proper profession. Would you have an auto mechanic do heart surgery? That's what you're asking teachers to do when you expect them to carry a gun. Amazingly, people still argue with me on this.

Armed security has it's own risks that are ignored.  I've mentioned the insurance rates (yes they exist and you pay for them in your taxes). Hiring the right profession would still cost less than arming teachers in 98,817 schools (that's how may US public schools there are). Thing is, accidents happen. As soon as one does, that security guard will be villainized and the whole debate gets turned on its ear. Having a gun and even the proper training does not make a person a super human or infallible. Gun supporters keep acting like it does. Even having armed security does not guarantee there won't be a shooting. Before you jump on me and yell "YOUR WRONG, IT ABSOLUTELY DOES BECAUSE SHOOTERS WON'T GO TO A POLICE DEPARTMENT!"  I would point out that a certain Las Vegas hotel had armed security  and that shooting still happened and with a historical death record. Why?

These shooters don't care what they are up against. If you take the time to compare all the mass shooters we've had in the news you may notice something. Just about every single one of them has zero regard for what they are up against. All of them know that they are going to face law enforcement at some point. 99% of them planned to die ahead of time. Pres. Trump and others call them cowards but that's not what they should take into consideration. The important factor is that they are suicidal and want to take as many people with them as they can. Not one mass shooter has ever cared if there were guns on the premises they went to shoot up. Again I cite Las Vegas, but it sure wouldn't be hard to cite more. Many schools have police who visit regularly and you can't plan for when they will be there. These shooters do not care. The sooner we can understand that, the sooner we can move on to how to stop them effectively.  I'll repeat, shooters don't care if people have guns where they plan to shoot.

Troubled schools don't need teachers with guns. We have a lot of troubled schools in our country and taxpayers who fight tooth and nail to do absolutely nothing to make them any better. All it will take is one kid getting his hand on a gun that's already there for another shooting to take place. "Well if it's secured, blah blah blah." Stop making assumptions! It's a school, not a bank vault. And a troubled school cannot secure a bunch of guns. It can't even secure it's students, control gang issues, get proper educational material, stem bullying or other violence, and you think they can secure guns?

There is even more to point out but I can tell you that this covers a lot of it. I know people will still shout about how wrong I am, but that's on them. If we can't figure out that it will take more than just throwing guns at the problem, we are doomed to keep having the same problems. It's as simple as that.

Monday, June 19, 2017

"People in wheelchairs don't go to the gym," says man about blocking accessible parking.

Yes. That is what the man who claimed to be the owner of North American Land Development said to me in defense of his friend who blocked accessible parking with his big SUV.  Allow me to divulge the whole story.

I stopped through the parking lot for Planet Fitness and Books a Million as I sometimes do, in order to check for parking violations to report on the Parking Mobility App. While the image you are about to look at is dated, I've added some pertinent information with random art skills.

Click on image for larger view. Credit to Google Earth.
You can clearly see where I've marked the direction of the construction and Planet Fitness. You can see where the construction company taped off parking for their work. You can see where I parked and where he parked. Important fact here... row we parked in was NOT taped off.  Remember this.

Below for purpose of identification I will call them Owner, Friend (as in of the owner) and Me (for the dialogue). I guess you could call this a "things people say" when they block accessible parking because these guys hit on just about every single wrong thing there is.

I saw the SUV first parked across the blue lines where I indicated. But if you really need an closer view:

Wouldn't you just love to see someone try to get out of a wheelchair van there? Good thing it was just lil ol me parked on the left. Note again the lack of yellow construction tape except dangling from the pole. People were parked clear down  that aisle. It was NOT cordoned off.

So I got out my phone and opened the Parking Mobility App. It had me take down this photo and one of his license plate. I notated the location and went on to the next car in the next aisle over. Yes, there were two violations right across from each other. Not uncommon at all. While I was taking down that information someone called out to me. It was an elder man with white hair and another elder man in a cowboy hat.  Cowboy hat was the owner. I know this because he said it was his company through the hodge podge of dialect and excuses. It went pretty much like this.

Friend: You took pictures of my car.
I looked back at him:  Sir?
Friend: You took pictures of my car.
Me: I'm documenting use of accessible parking, sir.
Friend: I'm not in handicapped parking.
Me: You are parked on the blue lines for wheelchair access. That is illegal and you can get a ticket if they come by.
Friend: I'm 87 years old.
Me: There is no provision to the law by age, Sir.
Owner and Friend together: This is a construction site.
Me: It doesn't matter what you have over there, you parked over here.
Friend says to the Owner: You know what you should do, tape all this off and then none of em can park there!

I'll let you reread that last comment before I continue. 

The Friend left and I went to my car. When I got in it. The owner laughed and shook a finger at me. Then he pointed to the wheel chair symbol on the sign I had parked in front of. I casually lifted my index finger to direct him to the placard hanging from my rear view mirror. Then I got out of the car as he walked toward the driver's side.

Me: Sir?
Owner: You don't look that disabled.
Me: Are you a doctor?
Owner: No.
Me: My doctor disagrees with you. 
Owner: Fine. But he didn't stop you from parking.
Me: Sir, it's the law. Our opinions do not come into play. And if someone with a wheelchair van came here, they wouldn't be able to get out of their van or into it.
Owner: People in wheelchairs don't go to the gym.

I'll let you reread that last comment for the same effect as before.

This is what people need to learn. Their personal opinion does not overwrite the law. Age has nothing to do with being able to park in accessible parking. As another note, had I parked on the blue lines, I would have been in violation as well. It's illegal... period. 

The law is the law and it's time that the disabled community got some respect out of it.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

My experiences with Parking Mobility

Since I started in February (it is now April) I have sent in 74 reports on accessible parking violations. For those who don't know what that means, it means people parking in the disabled parking spaces. We prefer to call it accessible parking because access is what it's all about. 74 violations in a small city like Monroe, Louisiana in  the span of 2 months feels like a lot to me. And I got them in an even shorter span of time, if you think about it. I only went out maybe once a week, sometimes twice. My route that I established for myself takes only about 90 minutes. I looked at my progress on the website (yep, you can totally check your progress) and counted the days. I went out exactly 17 days.

So, in reality, that's 74 violations in 17 days. Think about it.

What I want to talk about today is what to do if someone catches you taking down information. People react defensively and you will want to keep your cool and not wind up in a confrontation.

Confrontations not only don't do much to convince violators but can become dangerous and actually hurt the program. That last thing any partnering community wants, is anyone taking the law into their own hands or putting themselves into unnecessary danger.

In all of those encounters that I have had, only a very few have caught me. Maybe 5 or 6. That's just a matter of timing. One thing is for sure, nothing is worth and argument, so walk away. I mean it, just turn and walk away. Even if that means you don't finish sending in the report. It's not worth it.

So what kind of experiences have I had? When first getting started, I had an elder man and his young daughter (I'm assuming she was his daughter), catch me in the parking lot a few feet away from the back of their small car. He yelled and said he had every right to be there (he must have seen me on the news). So I asked where his placard was. He admitted he didn't have one and called me some choice names. I suggested that 3 dollars and a doctors note would fix that for him. He called me some more nasty names and told his daughter to back over me. I walked away.

Honestly, I shouldn't have bothered. I should have just said, "Sorry taking a call." and walked away. He wouldn't have had any idea if I was or not. Seriously, play it off as doing something else.

When you are taking down info, you should probably take down the plate number first and then take the photos, just so you have some of the difficult stuff out of the way first. Then, once you have the photos you can totally step away to a good distance to finish the rest.

On another stop I had a woman who had nothing to do with the situation come up and start questioning me. She acted really odd and circled me like a shark continuously asking me "what's wrong? Is something wrong?" over and over again. She was just weird. But I thought, hey, maybe someone who would be interested in volunteering, so I explained it to her. Big mistake. She stalled me long enough for an angry driver to come out and teamed up with that woman to berate me loudly in the parking lot.  The lesson, trust your gut. Don't let anyone stall you in the middle of what your doing. If someone seems weird, get away from them or play them off like you would anyone else.  I still get a shiver when I think of how bizarre that woman was.

Everything from an educational standpoint. I have had one or two people who were more interested in the educational side. These were people who already had a placard, but it was hidden under dashboard debris or left on the seat of the car. They took interest when I said that putting their placard where it can be clearly seen actually helps our cause. They even moved them to a more visible place right in front of me. But I did not go out of my way to engage them. And I also pointed out that having them as volunteers would be very helpful. Don't know if they took up on it, but it was worth a try since we were in dialogue already.

Basically, don't go out of your way to engage anyone while you are taking down a report on the app. If I want to try and recruit, I ask "would you be interested in volunteering"? But I don't do that out in parking lots unless a conversation allows for it naturally. I use social media.

Another good thing, if you can get enough people in your area involved, is that Parking Mobility will do a training course with you and "certify" you. See my last post on what you need to do in order to get partnered with your community through Parking Mobility.

Look; basically think of yourself as James Bond without the action heroics. All you are doing is gathering data quickly, quietly and safely to support the cause of cleaning up accessible violations in your area. Everyone deserves access to groceries, shops, and health care. People who violate that parking are taking way from someone who not only needs that space, but took the responsibility to go through the steps to park legally. I've seen some interesting tricks people will use to sidestep those same responsibilities.

ID on the dashboard: No placard and no plate means a violation. Your ID won't cut it.

Leaving someone to guard the car: That just makes you stand out. And we don't have to get close in most cases thanks to the good ol zoom feature on our smart phones.

Parking on the crosslines: Sorry that someone else got there first, but even with a placard, you can't park there. The crosslines are for wheel chair accessibility and safety in leaving and approaching the parking spaces.

Take two (or all of them): With just one vehicle. I know you don't want your new car scratched, but come on. Before I started using the app, I came across and elder man who parked his car across, not one, not two, but three accessible parking spaces. That's insane and would have been worthy of reporting. He didn't have a placard either.

So, the idea, to reiterate, is to safely gather the data and send it in. Don't get into confrontations and if approached, play it off. You can claim technical difficulties on your phone or something, but just walk away. Use distance where ever you can when using the app. You can zoom in with your phone from as far as another aisle away. It will look like you are taking a general parking lot photo. Then you can claim you are just taking down general data on parking spaces or something.

And one more tip: If the media wants to talk to you, refer them to the source. Media attention is fine, but it's best if your community is already partnered or you have them talk to Parking Mobility directly.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Using the Parking Mobility App

The Parking Mobility app is used to send in reports of accessible parking violations. For those who have been following a long, this is my second write up on the app. Learn more about it by going to the blog post directly before this one in the calendar. That being said...

Once you download the app which is free, you have to verify your email address and then you can start sending in reports. But do you know all of what a violation looks like? There's more to it than just where you park. Let's start with what is NOT a violation.

-A disability placard, in clear view from the rear view mirror. On the dashboard is acceptable so long as it is in clear view. More on that coming.

-A license place with a disability wheel chair emblem on it.

-A license place that begins with DV or has "Disabled Veteran" on it.

You may come across a plate that say PH (Purple Heart). By state laws, this does not work. There must be a placard or wheel chair emblem present.

Now what does a violation look like?

The obvious is a car without any of the legal markings parked in a clearly marked accessible parking space. But there are other problems.

-Blocking: When any car parks on the slanted yellow or blue lines, they are blocking safe access to the accessible  parking space. Let's look at an image:
Click on image for better view. This is a violation of "blocking" and there is a drop down menu in the app so you can report it accurately. If you look closely, there is another car parked ahead of the SUV that is in an accessible space. I can tell you that car was legal. To the right out of picture is a row of accessible spaces.

So the SUV isn't blocking anyone from parking per se, but the lines on this side of the spaces are still meant for disabled persons to move around safely, without having to squeeze between cars to get to the store. ANY car parked on these lines is a violation. Even if they have placard or plates.

One thing that is great about the app is that, if something you send in isn't a violation, they will inform you of it. So if in doubt, send the report.

Parking on slanted lines between accessible spaces or next to one is also a violation. Even if they have a placard or plates. They are blocking someone's wheelchair access.

You will come across what I call "just shoddy parking". Where someone parks halfway in an accessible space and halfway over the slanted lines next to it. If they have their placard and plates, this is usually excused. But if in doubt, send the report. List it as blocking.

-Placard not visible: Sometimes you will come across a vehicle that has the placard resting on the dash, but is covered with old mail or some junk. Or maybe it's been shoved so far down the windshield, it's nearly all obscured. Us the drop down menu in the app and select 'Placard not displayed properly'. Do all the other prompts as normal.

-Fake, Expired or Defaced Placards: This is another report in the drop down menu. If you think it might be a fake placard or something might be off about it. This is the report you use. They will let you know if you are mistaken. I've seen placards pieced together in laminate with odd bits next to them that didn't make sense. You may have to get closer to the car for this report than with others.

-ID on the dash: Another trick you might see is an ID card left on the dashboard instead of the placard. This is a violation. Nothing replaces the placard except the proper plates.

How to use the app:

When you bring up the app, you will have a map showing your location and a menu you can tap on. When you tap on "Report Violation" you will see a selection of points you need to fill in.

Violation Type: This is the drop down menu for the violations I listed above.

Below this, you will see 2 or 3 dark windows you can tap on that are labelled for photos of the violation. It is suggested to use your zoom feature where you can so you don't look like you are too close to someone's vehicle. I like to stand back a good ten feet or so if possible and use the zoom to capture the information. I've even stood in another entire lane of parking to catch windshield shots before because people were sitting in the car. They had no idea I took the picture.

Scrolling down, you will next find a tap map for the location of the space they are parked in. You can move the indicator to the best of ability to show where they are parked on the map. If there isn't a indicator of a parking space there, you can add one easily.

Next, is the License plate. You don't have to put in the State, just the number/letter combo.

Finally, there is a comment section. I used this to put in what store I'm in front of or other business as a helpful indicator.

You can do these things in any order you are comfortable with. Most people get the photos and then move away to finish the report. All in all, the whole  things takes seconds to complete and you carry on with your day.

A rule of thumb: It is asked that you avoid confrontations. If someone asks you what you are doing. You could say anything, and then just walk away. Some people say they are taking down accessible parking information for mapquest or something like that. Nothing wrong with being clever, just get the info and move on. Confrontations are not only dangerous, but usually don't help the situation. People will say all sorts of things, but don't like being told how it really is.

In my next write up I'll share some of the confrontations I wound up in and how to handle them quickly and safely. I have my past law enforcement experience to fall back on, and I'll share that with you.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

How do you feel about accessible parking?

When you see someone park in the handicapped zone that doesn't belong there, does it get under your skin? I tell you what, when you sometimes need that spot yourself, you really notice the violations more.

But what do you do about it? Do you wait around and confront the person? That can get dangerous. Do you call the police? Very timely and the person is usually gone by the time the police arrive.

But there is something you can do. You can join the movement with Parking Mobility and get something started. But it will take some perseverance.

Parking Mobility utilizes an app for your smart phone that allows you to report a violation of accessible parking from pretty much anywhere in the world. They are partnered with about 15 communities in this process as well. What does that mean?

It means that, in those communities, when a report is sent in, a ticket is eventually sent out. Parking Mobility works directly with the law enforcement agencies in those communities. Volunteers send in reports that are routed to the proper law enforcement division. In turn, a citation goes out in the mail to the lucky parking violator.

I spoke with Mack Marsh, the creator of the app and man behind the scenes with Parking Mobility. He explained to me that there are two things that need to happen in order to get the partnering process started in any community.

1: Evidence that there is a problem. That means collecting data and sending in reports. Even if you may not get your community partnered this year or next, this is the most important thing you can do. Using the app to send in reports is crucial. It takes a lot of data to get community leader's attention. That brings us to...

2: There needs to be enough people in the community who care about it and want to do something about it. That means a one man crusade is unlikely to get your area partnered. That's why I'm actively seeking more people to get involved in my area of Monroe and West Monroe, Louisiana.  You will need to seek out volunteers too.

Once those two conditions are met, Parking Mobility will seek out the proper connections in your community leaders and get the ball rolling for working together to control the problem of those violations. If you are going to work with Parking Mobility, please do not try contacting your community leaders without them. It can actually hurt the process. PM are professionals and know what they are doing. 15 partnered communities is a pretty good list of results so far.

So do note that I put the link up in the body of  this blog article. Get the app and get started. In my next write up, I will tell you more about how to use the app and what I personally do on my "patrols". Till then, you can also find training videos on the app's use via youtube and the website.