Tuesday, April 19, 2011

My day in court,

Although I had hoped for the Judge to see that this law is one that sometimes needs to be broken, and does not actually endanger the public as much as the "nanny staters" would have you believe, It came down to the strict application of law which lead him to find us Guilty of running an extension cord over a sidewalk.

It was about an hour that we were in court, I cross examined the witness, and presented evidence, then made my argument.  Had I known then what I know now, I would have done things slightly differently in my preparation, but now that is neither here nor there.

I do feel like I was on the verge of swaying the Judge to side with me, but lack of courtroom experience and understanding tipped the balance in favour of strictly the facts.  I don't think I did to bad for a complete rookie though, even if I do say so myself. However now comes the task of staying on top of the city, and getting them on top of this before fall comes again.

I actually have my argument written out, so I'll post what I read to the court for you;


I would like to start by explaining that I respect the law, and I am not here simply because I am unwilling to pay a ticket. I am here today because I disagree with a law that forces countless residents of Regina to break it, either knowingly or as in my case unknowingly, out of necessity. This law creates unnecessary financial hardship for people with no other option than to park on the street, with extra costs to avoid a ticket, further ticket costs, or possibility lost wages. It is not only my civil right to dispute this ticket, it is my civic responsibility to fight a law that is an inappropriate injustice to a large number of city residents who have no option but to park on the street, and yet need to keep their vehicle in running condition to support their families in Saskatchewan's winters!

As residents of Saskatchewan I am sure we are ALL aware of the necessity to plug in our vehicle in winter, and we are also all aware that a lot of the time sidewalks are not kept in the best conditions (by both the city and residents). As a result we are all more careful when we go out on them because poor conditions and power cords that accompany block heaters, are simply a part of the Saskatchewan winter landscape. Perhaps someone visiting from some a more tropical climate might be ignorant of this feature of the our winters, but residents know that one common winter feature will be power cords running over sidewalks in an effort to keep vehicles running. When a citizen takes appropriate measures to maintain both theirs, and the city's, sidewalks in such a condition for both ease of city sidewalk use, and a clear visibility of said “hazards”, these appropriate measures negate any real threat or liability. I was born in Saskatchewan, and have lived in the west all of my life, in all that time I cannot recall ever having tripped on an extension cord run across a sidewalk (of which were innumerable!) Why? Because like everyone else here in Saskatchewan, I am aware of the necessity for it, and that I need to be conscious of this very minor inconvenience.

It should also be noted that in the 14 years of this bylaw being enacted, there have only been “roughly 400” tickets issued (29/season), which shows decidedly that this is not an actively enforced bylaw, but one only acted upon at the behest of a complainant.

Your Honour; I was unaware of this bylaw's existence and although ignorance is not an excuse, it is a valid explanation when you look at the sheer number of Federal, Provincial, and Municipal laws that an individual would be forced to memorize to be in complete compliance. This is why the City has the 24 hour notice policy, and I was denied even the primary opportunity to comply willingly. Ticketing in a case where it was obvious where the owner of the vehicle is resides (the officer threw the cord onto my property), as well as being very likely that they were available (since their car was plugged in), is completely unnecessary, especially in a first offense situation.

As for the “hazard” our cord presented (As per the 3 criteria mentioned by the city, which were Tripping, snow blowers, and shovelling);
  1. first off we promptly shovel our walks (to the extent that one Canada post parcel delivery man thanked me, out of the blue, for keeping it clean when he brought a parcel to my door during the major snowfall in November).
  2. Secondly we did not leave excess cordage on the walk, it is one length of cord, flat and easily visible on the sidewalk. (Our cord is also one that has ridges on it which helps prevent slipping if it were stepped on.)
  3. We have been diligent to clean the city sidewalks every winter for as long as we have lived in our home, and there is as far as I know only 1 snow blower in the neighbourhood, which I have never seen run. (And when we have shovelled for others, or Vice Versa, it has been easy to avoid cords.)
  4. Finally I think it is safe to say that this hazard is minimized by pedestrians already understanding that they need to be aware of icy conditions, and any number of cords, that exist, not unnecessarily, on most residential sidewalks during our winters, (especially since residents are often forced to walk on the street because of poorly maintained sidewalk conditions elsewhere.)

I believe this law needs to be changed and adapted to suit the conditions we in the “Great White North” live in, and I am looking for some sort of compromise on this bylaw, whereby to maintain the functionality, it is not necessary for anyone to break the law, and yet still adequately ensure the safety of those walking down our street, as I believe we have already been diligent to do. There has to be a way for citizens without off street parking to maintain an operational vehicle in our Saskatchewan winters without being contrary to the law, otherwise it would be safe to say that thousands of the city's residents are forced every winter to break this law, just to have a functional vehicles.

On December 13th 2010 I received a call from Mayor Pat Fiacco, who informed me that he, and my City Councillor Mr. Mike O'Donnell, would be putting forward a motion for the city administration to look at possible changes of this bylaw. Obviously after having this brought to their attention they have seen the problems with this bylaw, and they are taking the steps necessary to amend it to better reflect the needs of residents who have no choice but to break it. The Motion was set forward on December 20th at the City Council Meeting, which was passed. There is currently an investigation going on by the public works department to look into adequate changes to the law because of this motion.

I would also like to mention that this bylaw is also NOT environmentally friendly, as it forces residents, if they want their cars to function during winter, to run them far more frequently than if they were able to use the block heater (which vehicle manufacturers recommend plugging in below -15C). And when we look into the future, where the possibility of “Green” electric cars becomes the norm, this bylaw will effectively eliminate a large number of “green” vehicles on the road as they will have no way to recharge them.

The courts not only have the power to enforce laws, but also to affect positive change when needed. Obviously this law needs amendment to allow for a compromise from the city to its residents, while having enough common sense in it to eliminate any real hazards.  I am asking you to send a message to the city administrators that they are in fact creating a hardship for residents and the environment with this law, and let them know that this law does not work for the average citizen therefore it needs to be amended. 

Your Honour, I invite you participate in this process by finding me not guilty.

Thank you, Your Honour.

No comments: