With apologies to the Chairman of the board.
I spend a couple of days in Chicago last week, doing some prep work for PIE. By the way, the wonderful Pat reports that registrations for PIE are running 25% ahead of the same time last year. Plus Andy reports that we are SOLD OUT in the exhibition Hall. It promises to be a great show.
I had lunch with John Hammerschlag at his “club,” The East Bank Club located on, you guessed it, the East Bank of the Chicago River. It’s a health club and serves great food. John says he works out there three times a week. I certainly wouldn’t mind eating there that often…They even give the caloric and fat content on every menu item.
John told me that his 201 Madison garage was peeking out at 92% credit card usage. That’s a great number, of course he has hidden the 1 POF machine that takes cash in the back, under the stairwell, down a dark hall next to the garbage cans. Smart fella, that John.
As we left, he demonstrated Chicago’s in vehicle parking meter system. You use your cell phone and input the “zone” and the amount of time you need. The gizmo in your car then turns on from a signal sent out over the phone network, and allows the officers to know that you have paid and that you input the correct zone. He did note that there was a problem one day before Christmas, and he got a ticket. He appealed the ticket and was politely told to “stuff it.” Not being one to allow the Parking tough guys (my words not his) in the Windy City to get by with a mistake, he called on Bea Reyna Hickey, the Goddess of Goddesses and Gods in Chicago’s Parking world. She did get the ticket “fixed.”
My next stop was Bea’s office and my discussion, strangely enough, involved in car meters and pay by Cell Phone.
If you have met Bea Reyna Hickey, you know that she knows her stuff and isn’t afraid to tell you her opinion. She told me that they were pilot testing the in car meter and PBCP (Pay By Cell Phone) because their major criterion was that their enforcement staff be able to write tickets exactly the way they do now, with up close and personal contact between the officer and the offending vehicle. Seventy percent of the tickets are written in Chicago are written by the police and the local constabulary didn’t cotton to having any additional equipment to schlep around on their beats, nor did those members of the “thin blue line” want to go back to school and learn how to use more complex equipment than a pencil and night stick. So rather than attempt to move the mountain, she took an approach that solved all the problems: Ease of enforcement and convenience for the patron.
The “in car meter’ allows the enforcement staff of all types to check to see if the car is in violation, AND it allows the user the convenience of PBCP. What more, said Bea, could one want.
I mentioned John Hammerschlag and she looked at me, slightly puzzled. I mentioned it in context of a parking ticket, and she smiled and said “Ahhhh….”
Seems friend John is in fact one of the 1000 people in Chicago on the test program and its true that she “fixed” his ticket. Now, however, the rest of the story. What follows may not be completely accurate, but you will get the pont.
There was a problem with the ticket and it shouldn’t have been written. However all persons in the pilot program had been told, many times, according to Bea, to contest citations through a special “hot line” set up specifically to handle such problems. John attempted to dispute the ticket in the normal manner. Therein lies the rub. The city had decided to “go easy” on the pilot users and also, understanding the nuances of the PBCP and in car meter program, had trained folks to deal with the unique issues that may be involved, one being the way a date is written on the citation and by the system.
If I wrote 9/12/2008 you would assume that the date was September, 12, 2008, However if I was in Ireland, the homeland for the system Chicago was testing, 9/12/2008 would mean the 9th of December, 2008.
John had parked in an area when it was “free” on the weekend, and didn’t activate his meter, however when he complained using the standard complaint procedure and his citation was looked it up on the computer, they saw the date and told him that the citation was valid. He had no alternative but to kick the problem upstairs, all the way upstairs.
As usual, Bea is impressive. She has a mind like a vault, and remembers everything. You don’t argue with her unless you are prepared to lose.
More on the “Chicago Trip” later.