Fix the tattered welcome mat

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I was pretty disappointed to have to print a story on page one of this week’s News Letter Journal about at least one resident of this community taking advantage of a well-intentioned city ordinance to complain to authorities that somebody who was attending a nearby church service was illegally parked in front of their residence.

It was even more discouraging to find out that more than one individual actually received a ticket from local police while they were attending a confirmation at Corpus Christi Catholic Church for students from not just Newcastle, but Upton and Sundance as well.

Incidents like this provide confirmation to those who like to repeat the claim that “Newcastle doesn’t welcome visitors,” and that is pretty frustrating to those of us who have spent years denying those rumors and working hard to assure people that this community does, in fact, appreciate visitors — and actually wishes we could welcome more of them.

Unfortunately, with tourist season about to begin, the timing of this couldn’t have been worse, and we believe city officials should take steps to immediately void the tickets. The ordinance under which they were written was never intended to be used for this type of situation, and I can’t imagine that we want to be known as a community that tickets people who park on a public street while they are in church.

We’ve all experienced the frustration of finding somebody parked in “our spot,” but in the overwhelming majority of those instances it is not something we should ever expect public servants to take care of for us.

A decade ago, there were a number of individuals in the community who were abusing the availability of on-street parking to park campers, trailers and other vehicles in front of other people’s homes for extended periods of time. The city council appropriately created a provision in city ordinance to allow local police to address those abuses, but those people who received tickets while attending last month’s confirmation ceremony were in no way violating the spirit of the law passed by the council.

They did nothing illegal, and should not be treated as if they had. Tear up the tickets.

We would also like to suggest that police not issue citations under that portion of the ordinance in the future until 12 hours after a complaint has been made. Any resident who would like a more immediate response than that should be required to display “No Parking” signs on each spot they are entitled to, or accept that it will take 12 hours for police to ticket the vehicle. We understand that there may be individuals who can’t park a block or so away and walk to their house because of a physical challenge, and encourage them to post signs to secure their spots and ensure access to their home.

The Catholic Church has been in that location for decades, and anybody who lives there at present knew that parking would be competitive for a few hours each week. There is no justification for complaining when a church-goer parks anywhere in that neighborhood while a service is in progress. If you haven’t put a sign in “your spot” clearly insisting that you refuse to be inconvenienced, you shouldn’t expect public servants to do your dirty work for you.

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