Monday, July 16, 2007

I Hear Ann Arbor is Lovely This Time of Year

Every year this fine city requires its residents purchase a "city sticker."

This sticker isn't an automatic pass for free parking. It doesn't offer a discount, or even the guarantee of expensive parking (which is most often all you'll find, if you're lucky enough to find anything). And if you don't live in this city — and so don't have a sticker — there's no penalty for driving here, or no additional fee at toll boths or anything of the sort.

In fact, this "city sticker" really only serves one purpose:

It prevents residents from being fined $140 every time a police officer wanders past their car.

That's it. That's all it does.

How much does such a sticker cost, you ask? $10? Maybe $25?

No. The city sticker costs $75 — or $80.50 if you buy it any place other than a city office (and, let's be honest, who wants to stand in line there?).

The very notion of this sticker infuriates me, as it has no added value to the user, beyond fine prevention. I mean, we all know we have to buy license plates. That's a given no matter where you live. And, OK, so it costs me three times as much to plate my car here as it did in my home state, but at least plates serve a standard, universal purpose, right? They identify your vehicle in case of emergency, pull over, theft, etc.

Which just goes to show the city sticker can't even serve on that level, without being superfluous.

I bring this up because I purchased a car this weekend (or sorta did, since they didn't have what I wanted on the lot but claimed one of their dealerships in a neighboring state did). Now, because I won't be able to pick up my car until Tuesday (hopefully — I won't believe I have a new car until I'm driving it away from the lot) — and because city stickers expired this weekend — that means I had to purchase a city sticker for my old car, even though I'll (keep your fingers crossed for me) only have it for two more days.

And I know what you're thinking: it's only two days. You live in a city with millions of people. What are the odds they'd ticket you?

Those of you who know me — and my peculiar brand of luck — know precisely what those odds are.

Besides, I saw online that they allow you to "transfer" stickers. All you have to do is take your old sticker (which will be in pieces, since they're impossible to peel from your windshield) into a city office, and they'll give you a new one.

No prices were quoted, so part of me hoped that meant it'd be free, though I suspected otherwise.

So I went into a certified sticker "dealer" last night. Explained how I'd only have my car for two more days. Confirmed transfers were possible. Purchased my sticker. And then said:

"There's not a fee for transferring is there?"



More silence.

"It'll be $27."

In addition to the $80.50 I just paid? Are you kidding me?! UGH!

I realize $27 isn't a lot of money, particularly in comparison to the $140 ticket I'd otherwise get. But, c'mon, now I'm just ticked off on principle.

And for the record: I read that the police were out full force, starting at 12:01 last night looking for scofflaws; and in the next week, they'll be patrolling city-certified parking garages for missing stickers.

God forbid they directed their resources towards fighting crime, helping the poor and — egad! — busting government corruption.*

*City stickers (among other things) can only be paid for in cash. City, county and state officials here have a long history of underreporting cash earnings as a means of lining their own pockets.


Woodrow said...

You should start a counterfeit city-sticker business.

disgruntled world citizen said...

Those "fees" are ways for local governments to get more revenue and say the haven't "raised taxes." And sadly, you're probaly right that you'd get a ticket the one day you didn't have a proper sticker, I know I probably would, too. Its just the way things go for me.

What kind of car did you purchase?

I almost went to the Concordia University in Ann Arbor. Pretty place.

thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

Woodrow: Previously, that may have been possible. But I read in one of two local dailies here this weekend that the new stickers include a bar code that police can scan to ascertain the sticker is on the proper vehicle ("this will help prevent sticker swapping" the article read). I'm not sure my $50 HP home printer could handle that. :)

thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

DWC - You're right. Though, sadly, in addition to these meaningless stickers, this city boasts the highest taxes in a state that has one of the highest sales taxes in the contiguous United States.

And the state is set up to charge you sales tax based on where you live — rather than where you purchase — a vehicle.

So. Yeah. The tax I paid on my (hypothetical) car makes me sick.

Michael K said...

Sell car. Buy bike.

thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

Michael - I have one of those. And I use it when I'm kicking around the city. But I work 20 miles from where I live, and there's no convenient train station nearby to make a non-car commute (e.g. train and/or bike) possible unless I move (again).

(I could try biking the 20 miles to work, but there are no showers here...)

Beth said...

What. A. Scam.

Anonymous said...

Um... congrats on the (possible) new car?

Dude, I know I sound like a broken record but you need to find a new place to live. Some place a little less corrupt. Shouldn't be too hard, one would think.

Good luck.


Matt said...

So the city sticker is a "car tax," as we have here in the state of Virginia.

I paid a few hundred dollars for this car tax, which is based on the value of your vehicle. But it gets worse, dude.

Virginia just passed a law that allows cops to issue speeding tickets that are up to....


And here's the rub: only for residents. Out of state motorists would pay only regular tickets, rather than these "special" tickets for residents.

You should just pretend to be poor and take the bus.

Matt said...

I have to have, like, five stickers on my car and I always forget to renew one of them and the very day it expires I get a ticket.

The state isn't capable of providing a baseline health insurance for everyone but they sure are good at ticketing motorists. I mean, they've got THAT one down!

Pamela said...

is this one of the civil-liberty infringements you were talking about?

thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

Beth - My sentiments exactly.

BPP - Wish me luck for now. Congratulations later. And, yes, I need to either move far far away... or get a serious raise to make living a bit more easy.

thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

Matt - But I already pay a "vehicle tax" when I plate my car. I suppose maybe this constitutes a "city tax," whereas the other is state.

Whatever. It's ridiculous however you look at it. The sales tax alone on my was enough to make me vomit a little in my mouth.

[Not a pretty image, I know. But then again... neither is this topic.]

thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

[PS - At least your vanity plates are cheap!]

thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

Pamela - I was thinking more of cavity searches at airports and holding people without trial, but I suppose this qualifies on a level.

thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

Stacy - I'm afraid if I post your comment, Big Brother (by way of the CIA) will bust down my door.

Glencross said...

And there's me thinking England was the home of soul-sapping pointless bureaucracy*.

* I can't believe** how many attempts it took me to spell that right.

** Even that took two attempts.