OK, let’s get into some detail here. If we are going to fix the poor reputation we have with the community we have to do it on the front lines. The Parking Enforcement Officers need to have some flexibility so when a husband is dropping of his critically ill wife in a no parking zone, he can get a pass. But I think it should go further than that.
I believe that the enforcement officers should be able to change a ticket to a warning at any point in the process, even after its written. If a person walks up just as the officer is placing the ticket on the car, the officer should be able to convert that ticket to a warning.
The major argument against this is that it could be fraught with graft. That is, if a ticket is worth $40, the driver could give the officer $20 to "fix it" on the spot. Also, sometimes a little cleavage or a well turned ankle could do the same.
It seems to me that its a price worth paying. If a person has parked for two hours and 15 minutes in a two hour zone, they should get a warning the first offense. The city could track it and on the second or third time, turn the third and future ones into legitimate tickets. That would take care of the habitual scofflaw. The once a year "I’m 10 minutes over" guy would get a pass.
Also, simple statistics could handle the officers who where taking backhanders. Although I don’t see why there would be a backhander. If a person walked up when the ticket was being written, it would be voided. No bribe needed. If the ticket was voided half an hour after it was written, then that’s another matter and could be dealt with administratively.
With proper publicity and signage, the plan could work. Scofflaws would get their tickets, honest citizens would get warnings and would do better next time, and that great resource known as parking would have tenders (enforcement officers) whose job it was to make parking safe, and plentiful.
Of course there is a stumbling block. There would be a decrease in revenue generated by parking fines. The city would have to come to terms with the fact that parking fines were and enforcement tool and not another way to taxing the citizenry. Monies generated from parking should be used for improvements in the area where the parking was located. New sidewalks, curbs, lighting, flowers, parks, etc etc etc. Maybe even more police patrols. It should not be a way for the city council to balance the general fund.
Rather than be "Parking Nazis", the enforcement staff would become welcome members of the community. They would provide a service, and at the same time provide a public relations bonanza.
In fact, here’s a prime example. In Manchester NH a citizen asked what I think is a legitimate question. They asked to see the ordinance they were violating. The conversation escalated and what could have been a plus for the city, ended in cuts and bruises and a possible law suit.
If the officer had simply said "Gee, Mr Jones, I don’t have the ordinance on me, but I’m only giving you a warning, and if you like you can discuss it with the supervisor down at the city hall. Or give them a call, or check the ordinance on line. In any event, there’s no charge." Or he could have just punched him out.