The Parking Wars.....An uneasy truce has always existed between the City of Richmond and Fort Bend County. Richmond enjoys the influx of several hundred visitors to the city each day with citizens taking care of business at the
courthouses. These visitors spend money and buy stuff in Richmond.
However, Fort Bend County takes up a lot of valuable prime property that pays no city taxes.
Recently, the county started insisting that the city enforce the parking laws on its property. The city said it could only enforce state parking laws on the county’s property. It could enforce a state law like a handicapped space, but it couldn’t enforce a county designated
parking space that is simply reserved for a county official like “Judge No. 1.”
Wore out signs changing the names.....A little history here. The county used to reserve these prime parking spots for particular elected officials by their name. For example the signs reserving the parking space read “Reserved for Judge Thomas Culver” or “Reserved
for Judge Brady Elliott.”
Well, the judges and other elected officials didn’t like this because anyone (like a pesky, nosey reporter) or even a citizen could simply drive by and know which judges or other elected officials were working and which judges or elected officials were not. To get around
that problem, later the signs were changed to read, “Reserved for Judge of 240th Court,” or “Reserved for County Treasurer.”
That was still no solution because someone (like a nosey, pesky reporter who knew all the numbers) could simply drive by and still see who was in or out. So the county finally decided to designate the parking spots as “No. 1” or “No. 8,” and unless you had the code which
could only be obtained with an open records request, it was not so easy to find out who was working or who was not.
Richmond stands its ground.....When citizens parked in those designated spots, the city of Richmond said it couldn’t enforce a designation on a private parking lot (owned by the county) since it was not a state law. This included the spots on the street around the
courthouse that were called, “Prisoner unloading” since Richmond could only enforce state law designated spaces.
I remember someone once parked in then County Attorney Bud Childers designated parking spot. (Childers is now a judge.) At the time, it made him so mad he parked his car behind the car occupying his spot and sent someone to call the police or find the culprit. It was
discovered that the newly elected county treasurer was the culprit.
At one point in time, nearly all of the parking spaces around the “Tower of Power,” that ugly monstrosity that is now called the “Travis Building,” named after William Barret Travis, the commander of the Republic of Texas forces at the Alamo. Someone swore they had seen the
grave of Travis, and it looked like it had been disturbed, like someone rolling over in it.
History of handicapped spaces....But I digress. At that time, Susan DuQuesney and I threw a hissy fit over the fact there were too few handicapped parking spaces at that building. We contended it was due to all those designated parking places for elected officials.
The county claimed it had the state-mandated required handicapped spaces, but we found the old Wal-Mart store in Rosenberg which had been converted to a county building, had all the handicapped spaces. We figured that the county had counted all its parking spaces around the
county and put the required number of all handicapped spaces mostly at the county mart.
Shortly after that, the county did put more handicapped spaces at the Travis building. This meant that only handicapped people and county officials could park at the Travis building. No spaces were available for the general public.
Couple this to the fact that all doors to all court buildings are closed except one at each building, manned by several sheriff’s deputies and a metal detector. The unlocked door is not necessarily the door located closest to the general public parking lots but is certainly
located closest to the elected officials parking spaces. This means that citizens must sometimes walk around a building to discover the unlocked door.
Who got caught?.....Flash forward to recent times and Judge Bob Hebert’s admonition to Richmond to enforce its parking spaces. Richmond said it would enforce the handicapped spaces but could not legally enforce the spaces that the county had simply “reserved.” It was
legally indefensible and could be challenged in court.
But at Hebert’s insistence, Richmond did begin to enforce the handicapped spaces in front of the Travis building and lo and behold! they gave a ticket to someone illegally parked in a handicapped spot---to a ---wait for it--Court Reporter!
Now the proverbial stuff hit the proverbial wind machine, and the county decided it would deal with its parking spaces itsownself. Hebert called it “common sense” enforcement of laws. In other words, it was not “common sense” if a ticket was issued to a elected official or
his/her pet employee--that pet employee who most likely knew she/he was parking in a “no no” space, but a pet employee who was most likely late for court.
Commissioners Court, comprised of the county judge and the four commissioners, decided last week to get the sheriff’s department to patrol the county parking lots to make sure “common sense” was used to enforce the laws. The sheriff’s department would issue citations and
tow vehicles and let the chips fall where they may.
By the way, the biggest abusers of the elected officials designated parking spaces were attorneys. They knew the designated spaces weren’t enforceable.
This is the silly things our commissioners deal with---and the silly things I write about.
Don’t you just love Fort Bend County?