Sandra Smith told me about one of her theories. That is, we shouldn’t just continue to do things to try to correct a problem with fines and the like, we should get to the root cause of the problem and do something about it. They had a problem in the ski resort of Whistler. They issue citations for drinking in public (on the sidewalks, this is not New Orleans.) Most of the tickets are written to young people 18-15 (no surprise there.) Sandra thought that this was an issue that needed addressing so she sat out to research it.
She found that most of these young people worked at the ski resort, lived in dormitory style buildings and needed a way to meet others (of the opposite sex) and to let off steam. She maneuvered some funds (actually coming from the citations for public drinking) and began a program of recreational activities for this age group. I know it sounds lame but give me a minute.
The programs included free movies in the evening, scavenger hunts on snow shoes (with great prizes), A Rocky Horror Picture show event, and the like. The first event drew six people. However with funding supplied by the citations and perseverance, her events now regularly draw two to three hundred people. Strangely enough, the number of citations for public drinking has dropped of substantially and the local young people seem much happier.
By the way, Sandra is no goodie two shoes…I have seen her enjoy a great single malt or even two. But she saw the problem and corrected it, seeing that citations did little to stop the behavior.
Ah to parking…
We kicked it around a bit and she felt that people don’t pay parking tickets (the habitual scofflaws) and hate to pay for parking because they feel that the money is going simply into the general fund and they feel that it’s being wasted, read that stolen, by the city.
What would happen, she posits, if the money were to go to something tangible that people could see, touch, and be proud of. (It’s her latent Shoupista showing through. Don claims that when money is collected for parking it has to be used for something people can feel, not simply used for an offramp 40 miles away.)
Consider what would happen in the parking business if people knew that when they paid a citation, the money went to a new park, or new streets, or, says Sandra, better yet the children’s ward at the hospital. What a great PR scheme, not to mention good works, to have a child standing next to parking meter thanking a driver for the money for his or her chemo. It doesn’t get any better than that.
People would look on parking fees, and citations, from an entirely different viewpoint. When you park you are doing something positive for society. I can see it now, citizens going up to a driver that walked away from a parking meter without paying and saying “Hey, Fellow, did you forget to pay. There are kids in the hospital that need that money.” People would pay their fines and actually feel good about it. And what politician is going to be against this idea – money for kids, new parks, is really bomb proof.
Hmmm Sandra may have an idea, and from her new position she may be able to flesh it out and lead the pack. Canadians have a reputation, not unearned, for being “nice.” Maybe this one, in her native niceness, has come up with a winning idea.