George & Wendy Show

Wendy Parker

Catching flies with honey: A parking firestorm in Minnesota

Steve Weber photo from Facebook, Coon Rapids, Minnesota

This photo was posted by driver Steven Weber to Facebook after he saw it on the window of a truck parked next to him in Coon Rapids, Minn. Click through it for a larger version on Facebook to read it.

Well here we go again.

I’m pretty sure most of you have seen the post on Facebook, or heard about it from someone who has. I caught it early Saturday morning, and well, you know what I did. I immediately looked up some information and sent a letter. And you’d be proud, because it was a very nice, professional letter. I learned a little from the Walmart experience. I didn’t suggest anyone wore tiny pants and I explained our side of the parking problem. I even inserted stuff to back my information up, like a link to the new hours rules and information about Warner Robins, Ga., rescinding their total ban after being made aware of restrictions on truckers they were unaware of when enacting the bans.

The whole time I was writing the letter, I was thinking, “Screw Coon Rapids, I hope the person who wrote that note runs out of toilet paper. Forever.” But I remembered something my Momma always taught me, and it’s really true that you get more flies with honey. Approaching anything with a “Hey, how can we make this better and can I help?” attitude will most certainly garner a better response than, “Screw you, I hope you run out of toilet paper. Forever.”

I actually felt sorry for the entire city, and mostly the moderators of their Facebook page. They left work on Friday afternoon with a nice, clean page, not much happening, and when they got to work Monday morning, pretty much every trucker on the Internet had threatened everything from boycott to a pox on the community. (I don’t actually recall seeing the word “pox,” I just threw that one in so you get a general feeling for the comments.) People are mad, and they should be.

But as my least favorite daytime celebrity always says, “No matter how flat a pancake is, there are two sides to it.” (That’s Dr. Phil, by the way, and he irritates me because about half the people on his show need nothing more than a good slap to the side of the head, and last I checked that didn’t require a PhD and 14 published books.)

I got a reply from Councilmember Denise Klint, whose ward includes the Riverdale retail area. I sent a letter to Denise because I found an article in which she was quoted as saying a parking ban was “a long time coming.”  This is the reply I got from her:

Wendy,
Thank you for letting me be aware of this situation. Obviously, residents are taking this into their own hands. I will speak to our police department about this.

This ordinance is not intended to hinder business. Any trucks who are parked overnight because they are in line, waiting to unload at a business, are not in violation. These trucks are allowed to park, if that is the case. Our problems arise when the trailers are left without the cabs, for weekends and/or just the cabs are sitting for days. It is obvious that these are not in line for any business, but just parking while the owners are at home.

I will be watching this carefully. Thank you again.
Denise Klint

She then went on to include, in a second e-mail:

I wish I had included another fact, that I forgot to mention. You stated a very good point – that the retail establishments need to take some responsibility. That is why this had become an issue. Our city prohibited over night parking in retail lots for some time (all vehicles). This was not a new ordinance at all. It became confusing and frankly, hard to enforce. That is why we recently moved to put more bite into the law and put the responsibility on the owners of the lots. 

Then, rather than citing them immediately, we have been giving “warning” letters, stating the original ordinance (not a new one) to the trucks themselves in hopes that we do not have to cite the establishments.

This is why we know the problem is not with trucks delivering to the stores.

I found this to be a perfectly acceptable response, however it again shows that some drivers think retail lots are truck stops. It also bears to note that these rules aren’t made clear – a parking ban means “No Parking” to me, not “You can park if you’re delivering and out of hours and need to sleep here.” It gives law enforcement a pretty broad interpretation, and becomes one of those places where you’re really not sure. Anyone who’s been on the road knows there are posted lots all over the place who will let you park if you go in and ask. The owners post the lots so they can be selective about parking — they don’t want to run truckers off. And a retail lot is not a place to do a reset, it’s a place to stay overnight if you have to, or park in to get supplies and leave. (See? I did learn something from your comments on the Walmart post.) I’d also like to point out that some of the property owners in the area may be at fault for allowing locals to park their trailers/tractors/equipment in their lots during home time. This is a local issue that should not restrict the flow of commerce traffic, and should be taken into consideration when and if this ban is tabled at a council meeting again.

It’s unfortunate that one “concerned citizen” has made the entire town look unfriendly toward trucks. I think Coon Rapids will probably have to do some damage control, a free-coffee-and-doughnut day for trucks might be nice, but I feel confident we can come to the same kind of compromise we did in Warner Robins, without getting all nutty and putting a pox on people.

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