November 5, 2013

Portland to issue $200 fines for altered handicapped placards

By Randy Billings rbillings@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Parking enforcement officers in Portland will soon be able to ticket drivers who have altered their handicapped-parking placards.

An ordinance enacted 6-0 by the City Council on Monday night will allow parking officers to leave tickets, carrying $200 fines, under vehicles’ windshield wipers. The ordinance will take effect in 30 days.

Councilors Nicholas Mavodones Jr., John Anton and Cheryl Leeman were absent from Monday’s meeting.

Altering a handicapped-parking placard is now a civil offense under state law. A summons can be issued only by a police officer, who must issue the summons to the driver.

Portland police officers respond to 85,000 calls a year, said Police Chief Michael Sauschuck, so it is difficult for them to give parking scofflaws the attention they deserve.

Parking enforcement officers will now be able to do that.

The city does not track the number of altered placards it sees, but Parking Manager John Peverada estimated that parking officials have seen 50 annually in recent years.

The misuse of handicapped-parking placards happens in many ways. Some people rub off and change the expiration date that is handwritten in magic marker on each temporary placard issued by the state.

Others use placards of deceased relatives who had permanent disabilities. The expiration date is punched into the plastic placard that dangles from a vehicle’s rear-view mirror, but some people punch out a new date and use the plastic to plug in the old one.

Also Monday, the council voted 5-1 to close a one-mile stretch of Baxter Boulevard – from Payson Park to Vannah Avenue – to motor vehicles from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays for seven months of each year.

The closures will allow a new event, Sundays on the Boulevard, to be held. People will be able to walk, run, bike, roller skate or skateboard on the usually busy street on Sundays from Earth Day in April to Veterans Day in November.

The concept was tested this summer, when much of the boulevard was closed for a construction project.

Two neighborhood residents and a representative from Portland Trails spoke to the council Monday in support of the proposal.

Carol Miller of Parsons Street said she rediscovered the natural beauty of Back Cove during the construction project, when no vehicles were allowed on Baxter Boulevard, which goes around the cove.

“I fell in love with the Back Cove again,” Miller said.

John Spritz, treasurer of the Back Cove Neighborhood Association, said he hopes that Sundays on the Boulevard will become a signature event for Portland – like the First Friday Art Walk.

Councilor Jon Coyne voted against the proposal, saying it would inconvenience too many drivers.

“I guess I don’t get it. Seven months to shut down a road?” Coyne said. “I think it’s a bit much.”

The council also approved changes to the city’s green building code, which requires developers who receive taxpayer subsidies to get environmentally efficient certification through Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

Developers have complained that the LEED certification is costly. That certification has been replaced with other commonly accepted energy efficiency guidelines.

The previous code allowed developers to apply for waivers if the certification costs exceeded 3 percent of the total project budget.

The 3 percent threshold will be replaced with non-cost-related criteria. Waivers will become “partial exemptions” so developers will have to meet at least some energy-efficiency requirements.

Previously, only projects receiving at least $20,000 in public assistance would be subject to the code. That has been increased to $200,000.

Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:

rbillings@pressherald.comr

Twitter: @randybillings

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