Austin Myers, Robertsville, who protested the city giving out parking tickets to drivers assumed to be at the PYA ballpark, said the city had not given him an ordinance he requested authorizing the signs.
Speaking at the Nov. 20 board of aldermen meeting, Myers said he had made a Sunshine request for the ordinance that authorized the signs that read No Ballpark Parking on South Fifth and West Meramec streets, near the Pacific Youth Association (PYA) field.
He said the city had given him three ordinances, but none applies to the signs. The first ordinance stated the administration had the authority to put up temporary signs. That particular ordinance could not possibly authorize signs that had been up since 2007, Myers said.
The second and third ordinances given to him also failed to authorize signs on public streets that identify one group of people who are not allowed to park there, he argued.
“The signs discriminate against one group of people just as surely as if they read No Black Parking,” Myers said.
“Here’s what I ask the board tonight — that you take a vote to make the signs legal and tell me that you stand behind those signs,” he said.
Aldermen pushed back hard, saying the PYA wanted the signs when it expanded its parking lot and first responders had said with cars parked on both sides of the street ambulances and fire trucks could not enter the ballpark in case of emergency or injury.
Alderman Jerry Eversmeyer lashed out at Myers, saying, “You parked all over the place down there. You should park in the city park and walk the two blocks.”
“There were kids running in the streets between the cars and there was a real concern for safety,” Alderman Mike Bates said.
“The sign says no parking that means no parking,” Alderman Mike Pigg said. “It doesn’t matter what else the sign says. It says no parking. When you see that sign you should go park somewhere else.”
“Anyone can write a ticket if there is a safety concern,” Alderman Walter Arnette added.
Two aldermen argued for action that would eliminate the claim of discrimination. Brad Reed asked his fellow aldermen to consider changing the language on the sign and creating a new ordinance.
“We need an ordinance that we can defend,” Reed said.
Alderman Ed Gass also said he’s concerned about the way the signs read.
“Is there even a way to enforce an ordinance that is vague like that?” he asked. “Merely seeing a vehicle is not enough. The policeman would have to see a man coming from the ballfield in order to issue a ticket.”
Gass suggested that the city attorney could draw up an ordinance stating policemen would have to see someone coming from the ball field.
“We need a clear ordinance,” he said.
Gass also suggested the city could chain-link the street off so drivers could not walk from those two streets to the ballpark. The sign could limit the no parking time from 5 to 10 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays, Gass said.
Bates suggested the signs read simply No Parking and be placed on one side of the street only.
“We’d have enforceability,” he said.
City Attorney Dan Vogel compared the No Ballpark Parking signs to signs that say Sears Parking Only or Kmart Parking Only.
Those signs are usually on private property, Reed noted, not on public streets.
Mayor Herb Adams used the issue to give a dissertation on the separation of powers explaining the role of the aldermen who determine policy, the administration, which includes police, that must uphold policy set by aldermen, and the judge who adjudicates any parking ticket where someone pleads not guilty.
“It’s only a $15 ticket, but I can tell you that people do plead not guilty for a $15 ticket,” Adams said. “And they don’t always need a lawyer. When I was judge I said to the defendant, just tell me your story and to the police officer just tell me the story.”
Adams said if anyone received a ticket they felt they did not deserve they should take their argument to the municipal judge.
Vogel continued to uphold the legality of the signs based on the three ordinances supplied to Myers. But he said the city could place the signs on the schedule of city signs that would authorize them. That would be the same as an ordinance and would make them legal, he said.
After arguments from fellow aldermen, Gass made a motion that the signs be placed on the schedule of signs.
With a 5 to 1 vote, aldermen approved the motion to put the signs on the schedule. Reed cast the lone no vote.
Myers said it is the board of aldermen that has acted wrongly.
“They have made a mistake,” he said.