Thursday, December 27, 2007

Scrooge's Auto Shop and Youngstown Municipal Ordinances

-----Saturday night, December 22, 2007 many people from the Youngstown Community came together to celebrate "Nut Night". Nut Night began in 1977 when the Moxie Cooperative Community decided to share in the festivities of the winter break without engaging in religious celebrations. Each member of the collective chose a festival day named for their favorite aspect of the season. The result: Tangerines, Avocados, Popcorn,Pomegranates, Evergreens, and Nuts -TAPPEN - and the six day celebration they called TAPPENfest. The second day was set aside to pay special tribute to Nuts by inviting them all to a drop-in party at the collective house on Wick Avenue, where yours truly currently resides. Nut Night was celebrated every year until 1990, when most of the collective members had dispersed. It was rekindled once more in 2000, and this past December 22, marked the first celebration of Nut Night since then. Nut Night is hosted by a mythological character named Hazel (the nut). When Nut Night is in the offing, a poem is written by Jean Engel in honor of Hazel. Here it is in its entirety:

Hazel sat a while in thought,

Her look concerned, but not distraught

I think," she finally said aloud,

"I'm 'spozed to be somewhere."

Once upon a time, you know,

Hazel was the downtown show,

A nut of parts she was, they say-

Philosopher-queen of the streets.

Hazel's downtown boomed, then busted,

First it thrived and then it rusted.

For twenty winters many cried,

"This place is going nowhere!"

But Hazel said, "You can't give in

To hopelessness. We'll never win.

We need to dance, we need to sing,

And rebuild hope together."

And all that wisdom Hazel preached

For all those years has finally reached

Into the Youngstown soul and

Engendered transformation.

Said she, "I think it's time to go

and celebrate, put on a show,

Hang out with my nutty friends,

As I was so fond of doing.

And as she rose and wheeled her cart

her step was light, as was her heart.

"Twas time to find the magic place

Where Nut Night was in progress.

Hazel may be nuts, we know,

Like lug and pea and grape and dough,

But she's got Moxie in her soul,

and that has made the difference.

-------So you ask, " What does this wonderful celebration,and associated poem have to do with Scrooge's Auto Shop and Municipal Ordinances?" Well, as you can imagine a celebration such as Nut Night requires many hands to assist in the preparations. Being a supporter of the Time Bank of the Mahoning Watershed I withdrew some help from my account. I can't say enough wonderful things about the help I received. She worked for many hours in the kitchen on Nut Night, and when most of the guests had left and only a few of us remained, she went to get in her car, and it was no where to be found. A bit shocked she came back to the house and sought our help. We asked her where she parked and she said that she had parked at the edge of a parking lot at an auto shop down the street. We couldn't imagine why the owner of the shop would have had the car towed. It is not a busy shop, and actually there is little activity there at all, and for all practical purposes appears to be abandoned. You can see this from the photo posted on the blog.

-------We put in a call to the police to ask if they knew of a tow from the auto shop. At first they denyed knowledge of any such tow, but after some checking the officer came back to the phone and confirm it was so. I asked her why. She said because the owner of the property had reported it as an abandoned vehicle. We asked her where the car was towed and what would be required to get it back. She said that we would need to get a release from the police department and then go to the tow company to retrieve the car. She said we would not be able to get a release that night as no one was at the police department to write one up.

-------Several of us sat around pondering this situation and decided to look up tow-away zone in the Youngstown Municipal Ordinances, because Scrooge's Auto Shop did not have a "No Parking" sign posted. What we found was the "Auto Shop" was not in compliance with the requirements for a tow-away zone. Section 303.082 Private Tow-Away Zones of the Municpal Code states:

(a) The owner of private property may establish a private tow-away zone only if all of the following conditions are satisfied:

(1) The owner posts on the owner's property a sign, that is at least eighteeen inches by twenty-four inches in size, that is visible from all entrances to the property and that contains at least all of the following information:

A. A notice that the property is a private tow-away zone and that vehicles not authorized to park on teh property will be towed away;

B. The telephone number of the person from whom a towed-away vehicle can be recovered, and the address of the place to which the vehicle will be taken and the place from wich it may be recovered;

C. A statement that the vehicle may be recovered at any time during the day or night upon the submission of proof of ownership and the payment of a towing charge, in an amount not to exceed ninety dollars ($90.00) and a storage charge, in an amount not to exceed twelve dollars ($12.00) per twenty-four hour period; except that the charge for towing shall not exceed one hundred fifty dollars ($1150.00) and the storage chartge shall not exceed twenty dollars ($20.00) per twenty-four hour period, if the vehicle has a manufacturer's gross vehicle weight rating in excess of 10,000 pounds and is a truck, bus, or a combination of a commercial tractor and trailer or semitrailer.

-------The next morning upon waking, blood pressure already rising, I called the YPD again. I spoke with a very nice shift commander, who after I explained the situation, said that I could come down to the station and get a release. (This was Sunday and I was later to find out that this was special). I asked the commander if he could do anything about the fees that the tow company was certain to charge. He said that he would call the tow company and then call me back with the results. He called back within moments and said that much to his surprise the dispatcher for the tow company had said that no one was at the tow yard to release the car. He told me that he was under the impression that a person was supposed to be able to get their car day or night. I said that he was indeed correct per the above code section 303.082 (1)(C).

-------We decided to go to the station to get the release so that we would have plenty of time in the morning to retrieve the car. We were concerned because Monday was Christmas Eve and thought that perhaps the tow company would close early. While at the station getting the release, I also secured a copy of the police report. The police report indicated that the owner of the Auto Shop had called the police department on Saturday to report the abandoned vehicle. The police went to the shop and spoke with the owner who stated that the car had been parked in his lot since approximately 1400 hours that day. The officer approved the tow of the vehicle for safe keeping.

-------When I returned home from the station with the police report in hand, I decided that the situation required further research into what constitutes an abandoned vehicle. This is what I found in Section 303.08 Impounding of Vehicles; Redemption:

(a) Police officers are authorized to provide for the removal of a vehicle under the following circumstances:

(1) When any vehicle is left unattended upon any street, bridge, or causeway and is illegally parked.

(2) When any vehicle is left on public or private property without permission and upon complaint of the private or public property owner, or on a public street or upon or within the right of way of any road or highway, for FORTY EIGHT CONSECUTIVE HOURS OR LONGER, (my emphasis), without notification to the Police Chief of the reasons for leaving such vehicle in such place. Prior to disposal of an "Abandoned junk motor vehicle" as defined in Ohio R.C. 4513.63, it shall be photographed by a law enforcement officer.

(3) When any vehicle has been stolen or oeprated without consent of the owner and is located upon either public or private property.

(4) When any vehicle displays illegal license plates or fails to display the current lawfully required plates and is located ulpon any public street or other property open to the public for purposes of vehicular travel or parking.

(5) When any vehicle has been used in or connected with the commission of a felony and is located upon either public or private property.

(6) When any vehicle has been damaged or wrecked so as to be inoperable or violates equipment...

-------Well perhaps by now you have come to the same conclusion that I did, the Scrooge of the Auto Shop had reported an abandoned vehicle in his parking lot at 1400 hours (approximately 2:00 in the afternoon) on December 22, 2007, the police completed their report at 20:00 hours, which means that the vehicle had been sitting for no more than six hours, a far cry from the 48 hours required by law. From this information one would conclude that the police officers of the YPD do not know the city ordinances. One would think that upon their arrival at the scene and upon running the plates on the vehicle, and conluding that the vehicle was not stolen, that they would have explained to Scrooge that they could not approve a tow, because for starters he doesn't have the proper signage for a tow away zone, and two, the car had not been in the lot for the required 48 hours. This of course would require that the officer know the Y-town ordinances.

-------...and so we waited, until Monday morning, Christmas Eve, and at 8:00 am I called the tow company to find out where they are located, and their hours. I was told by the dispatch person that no one was available at the lot to release the car. I explained to the dispatcher in a rather assertive voice, (I did not fail to identify myself as an attorney), that I wanted to speak with a person in a position of authority and I wanted to speak with them soon. She said that she would see what she could do.

-------Several moments later, I received a call from a person I presume was in charge of the tow company. She immediately began screaming at me, and said that I had been rude to her dispatcher. I explained to her that I was not rude but rather assertive because I believed that someone should be at the lot to release the car. I quoted the Section 303.08 to her. The section about how a tow company should be open twenty four hours a day for the release of vehicles. She said that the company does not abide by that rule, because what was the point of being open if a release couldn't be obtained from the police department from 4:00 pm on Friday until Monday. I explained to her that I had actually obtained the release on Sunday. She informed me that I must be special. I explained to her that the commander had been a bit surprised that the tow company wasn't open. I said to her that it would seems that the tow company was in violation of not only the law but their contract. She informed me that they did not have a contract with the City. (To this I say, hmmmmm. A story on this for another day). When I said that she was clearly in violation of the law, she said that the law must be for Boardman or Poland or something because that wasn't the rule in Youngstown. I informed her that I was reading from the Youngstown ordinances. She said, "well you know those people just get together and make up rules that they expect the rest of us to follow", I said, "Do you mean city council?" She said , "Yes". (hmmmm....I say again, yet another blog story for another day.) After some wrangling, I did manage to negotiate a deal with her to release the car for forty dollars (the cost of the tow itself) and no storage fees. Later... the car was released.

-------The moral of this story if there is one, or several, is that some people, in this case, Scrooge of the Auto Shop, do not care if they ruin other's holidays. Saturday night he surely noticed many cars parked up and down the street. A reasonable person would have concluded that someone was having a Holiday party, perhaps even gone in search of the party. If he had done so, we would have offered him a drink of wassail and some solidarity soup. He did not. He is a mean-spirited man.

-------Second, it is a sad tale that our police officers are lacking in knowledge about such mundane tasks as towing a car. Our police officers obviously need a refresher course about the city ordinances.

-------Thirdly, it is time that Youngstown Municipal Ordinances be respected by not only the citizens but the police force and those in positions of authority. Our city council is not just a bunch of people getting together to play a game called, "lets make some rules", and if we want people to come into our city to visit, we must make certain that they are not only protected from criminals, but that our police officers follow the laws as well. As Hazel says, "You can't give in to hopelessness. We'll never win. We need to dance, we need to sing, and rebuild hope together." She may be nuts, but she's got Moxie in her soul as do all who continue to fight and defend Youngstown.


susie said...

Great read! And all I could think of while reading this was that these pursuits alone could be a full time job - ordinance adherance, towing, council, police, education, enforcement, neighbor relations...
(what a pandora's box!)

I LOVED when you wrote that if Scrooge had seen the cars and realized it was a party and come down he would have been offered wassail and solidarity soup! Mostly cause I know it's true!
What an INCREDIBLE party!

Does anyone take Youngstown seriously?
Do the cops have to live in the city? I think that's right. Or did that "requirement" get waived when "someone" noticed too few cops for too much city!


Tyler said...

Thanks for blogging about this. Good show! Too bad you didn't name names :-)

TANTA I said...

Now that is showing us some MOXIE.
Keep hope alive!!