December 01, 2016
Philadelphia Parking Authority officials can’t be all that keen on the fact that, of all the people to publicly declare war on them, the one currently, and loudly, throwing the gauntlet down is attorney Michael Coard.
Yet there he was on Thursday afternoon outside the agency’s Bureau of Administrative Adjudication with a megaphone to rally passersby to join his mission to “abolish the PPA as it currently exists” and replace it with one more concerned with parking than profits.
The mission stems from a legal battle that Coard, a criminal attorney, has engaged in with the PPA over a ticket left on his vehicle for parking on the 3600 block of Conshohocken Avenue in West Philadelphia.
Boiled down to its basics, a PPA ticketer hit him with a violation for parking in a bus zone even though his vehicle technically wasn’t in one. (It comes down to whether a posted sign or paint on the street defines where the bus zone begins. He was past the sign but not within the painted box, and a Court of Common Pleas judge agreed he wasn’t illegally parked.)
Based on that battle – which the PPA is currently appealing – Coard maintains the agency could owe “drivers, who were victimized like me, a total of more than $12 million.”
Standing on the sidewalk along the 900 block of Filbert Street, Coard’s folks handed out flyers with a summary of the case printed on one side, and several questions on the other. They included:
"We gotta fight back. This is a scam, fraud and crime, and we all need to stand up." – Michael Coard
Have you been victimized by Parking Authority officers on the streets?
Have you been victimized by Parking Authority officers at hearings?
Have you been victimized by Parking Authority bureaucrats?
Have you gotten fed up to the poing where you’re ready to fight back?
Coard asked anybody who answered yes to any of those questions “to join a newly formed group that will expose all Parking Authority misconduct, provide legal strategies to contest Parking Authority tickets and contemplate a class action lawsuit against the Parking Authority.”
His 15-minute presentation can be viewed in the Tweet below:
There, he laid out the case that residents face a stacked deck in legal battles with the “vulture” PPA. The press conference was designed to rally people to fight along side him, he said.
“Once again, these are black folks, these are white folks, these are Asian folks, these are Latino folks. Everybody in Philadelphia has been victimized by the Parking Authority, is related to someone who’s been victimized or has a friend who’s been victimized,” he declared. “I don’t know anybody who has good things to say about the Parking Authority, even the employees.”
Beyond bus-zone infractions, Coard focused on on-street parking tickets that carry a block, and not an exact address. PPA is required to provide that specific information after a similar case, and subsequent settlement in 2013, he maintained.
“You can’t just say the 900 block of Filbert St. You have to say 913 Filbert St., because there might be spaces on that park where you can park legally,” he said. “Check out the tickets you’ve gotten. It won’t say the specific address; it’ll just say the unit block. That’s a violation of what the Parking Authority agreed to in 2013."
Then, he offered thoughts on just how many Philadelphians and visitors could have been impacted.
“There have been studies done to show that, since then, at least 70 percent – 70 percent – of tickets issued after May 14, 2013 are defective. Seventy percent. But when you go into these hearings, they find 100 percent of people guilty. How can you do that?" he asked. "You can do that because you’re a bully. You can do that because people don’t organize. You can do that because people don’t stand up. What the Parking Authority has done is awoken a sleeping giant, and you are that sleeping giant.
"We gotta fight back. This is a scam, fraud and crime, and we all need to stand up. We all here can disagree on a lot of stuff, but I’d venture to say that when it comes down to people’s righteous indignation and legitimate hatred for the Parking Authority, we all come together.”
Asked for comment on Coard's case, PPA spokesman Martin O'Rourke responded to the bus-zone case specifically.
"The PPA is concerned about safety issues related to picking up and discharging of bus passengers, and has appealed this decision," he responded.
Coard, for his part, listed his phone number (215-552-8714) and email at the bottom of his handout, urging anyone with a PPA beef to get in touch.