George & Wendy Show

Wendy Parker

Catching flies with honey: A parking firestorm in Minnesota

| June 10, 2013
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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  • Dawnmarie Akers

    Now that was very nicely put Wendy. and At least someone got back too you. Thank you for letting us know.

  • Jason Haggard

    I would suggest looking at the actual ordinance which I physically acquired from the city of Coon Rapids today when I drove up there after speaking with them. Council member Klint stated to you that “Any trucks who are parked overnight because they are in line, waiting to unload at a business, are not in violation”. That statement is not accurate nor does it follow the guidelines of their ordinance.

    Her interpretation of the ordinance is off base as it states it is not a violation if “the vehicle is in a queue approved on a site plan or by the Community Development Director, for a loading dock or loading area, for not more than eight hours; or is being actively loaded or unloaded”

    Their ordinance grants shippers and receivers up to 8 hours to load and/or unload a truck which in many cases will put the drive of said vehicle in violation of their 14 hour on duty status. It is imperative that people actually take the time to acquire the actual documents instead of taking the statement of a city council member at their word as in so many case like this one, even the council member seems to be clear of the ordinance.

  • Jason Haggard

    I will also add that there were several very well written responses to the city on their website as well.

  • Wendy

    Jason, I agree, which is why I also took the time to read the ordinance, as well a several articles written about it, before composing my letter. I’d like to point out I mentioned the vague nature of the current enforcement standards of the ordinance. I don’t agree with the current 8 hour restriction, and have hopefully provided the council with information they were unaware of, so the time frame may be extended to suit the HOS laws. I also agree there were some extremely well written and articulate posts on the Facebook page, but a great majority were negative and offered no solution other than a boycott. Owner ops may have the choice to boycott, but company drivers don’t, why should it be left to them instead of trying to find a compromise that suits everyone? Why not begin the conversation with, ‘how can we change this’ instead of ‘screw you guys’? I’m just as sick of the attitude the general public has about truckers as anyone else, but when you get on a public page and cuss and carry on, you personify the image they expect. The point I was trying to make is it’s a lot easier to get people to respond and listen when you don’t go at them like you’re going to eat their face off. Which is exactly why I responded to your comment – it was thoughtful, well written and deserved a response.

  • Jason Haggard

    Unfortunately as the day progressed the comments left on the city page became more and more offensive and did absolutely nothing to improve the image of the American truck driver. It is a real shame when drivers have a chance to have a positive impact on a situation and then intentionally squander that chance away and actually make things worse.

  • jjMclure

    I was part of the Warner Robbins boycott. I used the angle of Federal law vs local law. DOT says you can’t drive after hours. Does the Feds trump local? In immigration it does. I made the mayor of Warner Robbins aware that there may be liability for them if a driver injures someone because of them enforcing locals laws over Feds. I don’t know if it would stick, but it sure go his attention.

  • No Reform

    Pretty funny actually they dont like these EYESORES in our city….well when ya look at the SLOBS that get out of them and piss all over the place and then throw their garbage on the ground..empty some ash trays etc…Im sure they get tires of seeing the trucks……Each city should have designate parking for trucks if they take deliveries…the owner of that DUMP could just point the Driver to the non existent Parking Oasis??? Its all pretty screwed up today.

  • Dr Duke

    I find this situation much worse than the Walmart one. It is a private property owners business who they want to let on their property. In this case even if a business wanted to let trucks park overnight they are not allowed to by the ordinance. My standard answer to the whole eyesore argument is when you pay the property tax you can decide what is or isn’t an eyesore. RV owners run into this all the time. Many cities and towns will not let you park an RV on your own property.

  • martymarsh

    It is a shame when people, even truck drivers, thinks most truck drivers are scum of the earth. Which has a tendency to bring on negative reactions. I really can’t understand why everyone is pissed off, yes that is sarcasm.
    Now let us deal with the truth instead of all this other garbage.
    There are 2 reasons these towns come up with these ordinances. 1 is because the really don’t want the trucks there, and 2 because laws are money makers, you can’t change that as a whole.
    I have no respect for politicians, because when they are confronted they bring out the soft soap, such is the case of you talking to them.
    If they were truly honest they would have investigated the impact, what would that entail, driving down to the local mall and maybe talking to a truck driver. Also if they were truly honest they would have told you, we don’t want them here. But then who is truly honest?
    EVERYTHING is eventually about the DOLLAR, but you can call it what you want.
    A truck driver gets a parking ticket and lives a 1000 miles away, what’s he or she going to do, pay it.
    Sugar coating by politicians does not take the fact away that they are lying.
    They need to do what is right the first time BEFORE anyone has to complain about it.

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