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.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Reflecting on the Presidents of my Lifetime

I was born in 1970 during Richard Nixon's run as President of the United States. Naturally, since I was a mere child, who he was mattered for zilch to me. I had no reason to care. But lots of people did care since the man resigned over the whole Watergate thing. But I wouldn't learn about that for 10 years yet, give or take a couple. You know,because of a thing called History class.

I had no reason to care about Gerald Ford either. I was in kindergarten and my circle of focus was very small. As it is for any kid really. What matters to you at that age anyway? Food, clothes, school, a few friends, and that's about it.

But if you look at Ford's presidential report card (so to speak) you see something interesting. I'm going to take a quote from the page, but you can read all about it HERE.

Ford's presidency, then, was marked by three elements. First, Ford faced extraordinary challenges, especially involving the nation's economic woes, which he struggled to solve. Second, Ford had difficulty navigating a demanding political environment in which Democrats (from across the ideological spectrum) and conservative Republicans found fault with his leadership and his foreign and domestic policies. The combination of these first two elements helped bring about Ford's defeat in 1976. Just as surely, though, a third dimension of Ford's presidency deserves recognition: Americans, by and large, believed that Gerald Ford was an innately decent and good man and that he would (and did) bring honor to the White House. Although this sentiment proved too little to bring Ford to victory in 1976, it is an assessment that most Americans and scholars still find valid in the years after his presidency.

Take note that Congress was controlled by Democrats and that created severe adversity for him as President. Take special note of that, please. It bears historical significance.

I was 6 years old in 1976 and here was Jimmy Carter (actually took office in 1977). I remember seeing him on television, but that's about all I remember of him. Of course I was in maybe 1st grade by this point. So once again, who this man was mattered not at all to me. But to look back from today, Jimmy Carter inherited a very similar state that Obama did. How? Well HERE and here: 

Carter took office just thirty months after a President had left the entire federal government in a shambles. He faced epic challenges—the energy crisis, Soviet aggression, Iran, and above all, a deep mistrust of leadership by his citizens. He was hard working and conscientious. But he often seemed like a player out of position, a man more suited to be secretary of energy than president. Carter became President by narrowly defeating an uninspiring, unelected chief executive heir to the worst presidential scandal in history. The nomination was his largely because in the decade before 1976, Democratic leadership in the nation had been decimated by scandal, Vietnam, and an assassination.

Because of this and his struggles he was viewed as a "weak and inefficient" President. But today, I hear people say "Now that was a real President." It's funny to me how most of those people aren't any older than I am. Many of them are younger. That means they had no idea what the world situation was like and it sucked. I know that Carter tries to advise Presidents of today based on his experiences, but they usually ignore him. That's what you get for being a moral man in an immoral world.

In 1980 I was 10 years old and Ronald Reagan took over. Now here was a man everyone thought would get things done because "he's not a politician". Sound familiar? He wasn't a politician either, until he ran for President. I don't care who you are, if you run for President, you are a politician. Congrats! Yeah, he was an actor. Well, guess what actors do for a living? Being a politician is a snap next to that. One point still stands that he didn't really matter to me. He mattered to my parents. He mattered to adults. But I really saw no differences in life. 

But you know what? That man actually did get things done. Thanks to the meetings between him and then Russian leader, Gorbachev, the cold war essentially ended. Read about that HERE.

Quoting:  

Reagan's economic legacy is mixed. On the one hand, tax reduction and a tightening of interest rates by the Federal Reserve led to a record period of peacetime economic growth. On the other, this growth was accompanied by record growth in the national debt, the federal budget deficit, and the trade deficit. Defenders of Reagan's economic record point out that a big chunk of the deficit was caused by increased military spending, which declined after the Soviet collapse and created the context for balanced budgets during the Clinton years. Even so, the supply-side tax cuts did not produce the increase in revenues that Reagan had predicted. The economist Robert Samuelson has suggested that Reagan's main achievement in the economic arena was his consistent support of the Federal Reserve, which under Reagan's appointee Alan Greenspan, followed monetary policies that kept inflation low. Reagan also succeeded in a principal goal of reducing the marginal income tax rate, which was 70 percent when he took office and 28 percent when he left.

Before anyone jumps on me, yes I know that there were a lot of people fighting for rights of all kinds during these administrations. Take notice that those subjects are NOT what this post is about. 

Reagan held his post for 8 years and did well enough that when George Bush (prior Vice President) it seemed like the way to go for voters. I was 19 and joining the Army at the time. Again, I give you a link to read up about his Presidency and it's legacy HERE

But this quote seems to say it all for how that went, never mind his famous "read my lips" business:

Generally the Bush presidency is viewed as successful in foreign affairs but a disappointment in domestic affairs. In the minds of voters, his achievements in foreign policy were not enough to overshadow the economic recession, and in 1992, the American public voted for change.

For me, I remember a lot of complaining about ol George, even from fellow soldiers and drill sergeants. But I wasn't involved in politics. I wasn't even voting yet. I didn't even register to vote until the Clinton era (if memory serves). No one taught me that I should vote. I knew next to nothing about it. But I did see strife in the common person. That was enough for me. 

Ask yourself this question: How do you earn a second term as President? By doing something right by the people. You have to admit that if a President really did screw up that badly, the common person would not vote for him again. History seems to support this. It's why Reagan held his post for 8 years and why Clinton held his for 8 years. Clinton wasn't your typical democrat as you can read HERE

And to quote a section:  

Clinton managed to remake the image and operations of the Democratic Party in ways that effectively undermined the so-called Reagan Revolution. His "New Democrat" Party co-opted the Reagan appeal to law and order, individualism, and welfare reform, and made the party more attractive to white middle-class Americans.

Clinton was the first President that actually mattered to me. He was reported to have held up more campaign promises than any President since JFK. And I still didn't know much about what being President really meant. I was young yet, in my early twenties. What do you care about in your early twenties after all? It seems interesting to me, as I look back, that we have a repeating history of someone who makes a mess of domestic affairs (who only gets one 4 year run) followed by someone who has to play clean up and earns two runs. Trend? Who knows. The Clintons may have been a family of great scandal, but they did do some things right. It was that scandal that changed things back to the Republicans when Al Gore ran for President. That paved the way for a whole new set of disasters.

Let's face it, if Clinton could have kept it in his pants, he and his wife would probably never have been scrutinized so closely, destroying their reputation completely. And we would have a very different political environment today. 

I have to admit, in his first four years, George W whupped some ass. No, he did. Of course LINK
He was responsible for the No Child Left Behind program that set way for astounding changes in our educational system. He responded to 911 without hesitation (do NOT start throwing conspiracy theories at me).  But this quote probably says it best:

As President, Bush became a lightning rod for controversy. His controversial election and policies, especially the war in Iraq, deeply divided the American people.

He's still heralded a hero to the upper class because he made things rosy for them. But everyone else was really feeling the pain by the time of his second term (that he earned by his war mongering). How? Well they refused to call it a "depression", but that's about what it was that went hand in hand with the housing collapse that our country still hasn't fully recovered from. You know, the one that put millions of families out of their homes with no legal recourse? It was Bush Jr. who set my views of the Republican party. His forcing of welfare recipients to "work" whether they were physically able or not paved a way to distrust from the entire disabled community. It was found unconstitutional and discontinued (thankfully for a lot of people). These events practically destroyed the middle class and were the beginnings of the divisions we see people blame Obama for today. It was after seeing people in wheelchairs with oxygen tanks forced into slave labor that I decided I would never vote for  a Republican. NEVER. Mind you I don't like either side of the system, but I've been hurt by the Republican party personally so... let's get on with it.

That's what really taught me how politics can affect people. So when Obama came along and I learned about him. I voted for him. But then I would see new disappointments. Unfortunately the Miller Center didn't have a page for him for me to link. Of all the elections of any level that I had witnessed, I never saw political mudslinging like I saw directed at Obama. Even now, people are still screaming that he wasn't and isn't an American citizen. It's been proven that he is and was, but it continues. That behavior and my past experiences only served to concrete my vote for him both times. 

But he did step on some toes to put it lightly. The Affordable Care Act was not received well by insurance companies, so they turned around and screwed a lot of people to save their own budgets. That, of course, received no corrective action. Like Jimmy Carter (remember the historical significance I mentioned above?) he came into office with a Republican controlled Congress that shut down the government twice with their temper tantrums over Obama. Was there also racism or religious hate against him? Absolutely. People on the net still blast him for being "Muslim" when we are supposed to support Freedom of Religion. He did piss people off though, especially the upper class with the whole "redistribution of wealth" idea. Socialism is a very scary word, especially to the extreme Republican. Oh, but please note the educational pic I'm adding. Very interesting and accurate. 

Yeah, he pissed people off, but he was also the most opposed President in office in our recent history. Opposed more than Jimmy Carter was. Every single thing he did was automatically blown out of proportion and rebelled against. But you didn't see him tweeting about it.

That's how it all came to be for me. I don't like our current political system. I think the whole Dems versus Reps is exactly what's tearing the country in half, like it did for the Civil War. As I look back at past Presidents and their elections, it seems to me that at least there was a candidate worth looking at. I didn't want Hillary any more than Trump. Neither side can be reasoned with without degenerating into slurs and fighting. I'm sure someone will attack me for what I've written here and I'll be called a Libtard (I am not a Liberal) or Obama lover (also not). But I know that those attacks seem to come exclusively from Republicans, and to that I will say, while I don't agree with the Democrat side either, I have never been attacked by them, bullied by them, put down by them, etc. Yes, I see what they've done in riots and I don't agree with that either, but my point stands. If you want me to listen to you and you call me names, it won't happen.

Sorry this is so long, but it seemed to need it. Peace out.



Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Trump's executive order on immigration and...

why it's bullshit.

Give him a chance! That's what his supporters keep screaming as they cheer every unconstitutional trick he pulls. People are very afraid and his supporters think that fear is pretty tasty and hilarious. Now he's keeping his word about that stupid wall and guess what, Mexico is not going to pay for it. I have yet to see anyone give one legal reason that will hold water for Mexico to pay for a wall around our country. Never mind the fact that it won't stop people getting in with legal visas. For the inanely stupid out there, that is how people get into our country by majority. They do it with a legal visa and just don't leave when it expires. Oh, but Trump has a plan for that. He's got an executive order that will make all the Muslim haters in our country weep with joy. And it's extremely offensive and bigoted. It's racial profiling at possibly the worst in history. Oh, but give him a chance.

Let's take a look at a break down of what he's doing with this so far. You can see the entire order online pretty easily.

1: Both travel and immigration to our country from the following shall be banned (with an open left to add more countries later) :  Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Iraq, Iran.

Because we never ever want to have peaceful talks with these countries ever again. You have family here? Don't worry, they'll be sent to you shortly, whether legally here or not. I guess, at least we aren't doing the whole internment camp again. Or will we?

2: It is advised that students from the listed countries not leave the US, for they shall not be permitted to return.

Because we only want to give education to foreign students we particularly like. Discrimination? Nah, it's not discrimination. They can call "alternative facts" like waving Mentos around in a murder commercial.

3: People from those countries with visas who have not traveled to the US, will not be allowed  in. Their visas are void.

Yep, because good or bad.. fuck you and your country too.

4: The ban will extend to spouses of US Citizens of those countries with pending applications to the US.

Wait, what? Seriously? Okay, let's destroy some families while we're at it because this would be way too boring otherwise. Oh but wait, that gets better as we go.

5: The EO will call for what is known as a "values test" with questions such as:
-Do you follow Sharia Law?
-Do you believe in beheadings?
-What do you think of gays?

Uh, because people trying to get into our country for any reason will just magically fess right the fuck up on that shit. You know, our country has pulled this crap before. We did it to the Japanese right before we carted them off to internment camps. We did to fully legal citizens only because they were Japanese and not for any other reason. So we haven't learned our lesson (or at least the Republicans haven't) and we're just going to do it again. This time to Muslims. Oh wait, we did to the Indians too when we took all their land away. And all the rest of the Muslims in those countries and students from them can just fuck off. They don't even get a questionnaire.

How can anyone who claims to support democracy actually support this? How? How is this a good example of what he's going to do? Hell, it's not even all he's pulling so far. I'll probably write about that too because now I need a place to vent and this is it.