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They have the worst handicap of all — no heart

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POSTED October 1, 2013 11:48 p.m.

The late model blue Toyota Camry flipped a semi U-turn to take the parking space near the front of the Main Street SaveMart in Manteca.

As I walked toward the front door I noticed three things: The driver and passenger appeared to be healthy women in their 30s, there was no handicapped license plate or placard, and they were parked in a clearly marked handicapped zone.

Perhaps they had some invisible ailment that made it difficult to walk or breath. But that couldn’t be since they practically ran me over as they dashed into the store.

Then it dawned on me. They indeed had a handicap and it is arguably the worst handicap of all — no heart.

Nothing that self-centered people do anymore really surprises me.

Years ago I had a friend’s 21-year-old daughter bitterly complain about getting a ticket from a Manteca Seniors Helping Area Residents and Police volunteer. She had parked in a handicapped zone in front of the Big 5 Sporting Goods instead of an available space just 30 feet away. She said it was unfair because she was only away from her car for 10 minutes.

When asked what if a handicapped person with severe mobility issues had tried to find an available handicapped space while she was gone. Her retort? Walking another 30 feet wouldn’t have killed them.

The SHARP volunteers no longer write such tickets. It’s because of an interpretation of the law up in Sacramento that essentially said such tasks have to be done by sworn law enforcement officers that obtain proper training.

The able-bodied folks who violate handicapped parking laws are in the same class as the people who scammed the Disneyland handicapped line policy proving there are really a lot of small people in the world after all.

For years, Disneyland had a policy that allowed families with disabled children or parents to go to the front of the line.

That was before large-scale abuse was uncovered. Healthy people were renting wheelchairs at Disney amusement parks to take advantage of the policy. Wealthy families were hiring disabled tour guides to blend in with their group to go to the front of ride lines.

The abuse got so bad that Disney finally pulled the plug on the long-standing policy aimed at making a visit by medically frail boys and girls to one of their parks less exhaustive and tenuous.

Disney replaced it with a program similar to its existing program that allows people to secure specific windows of times to report to a ride. The new program is tailored specifically to families with handicapped kids or parents.

Disney solved the problem even though it takes away some reasonable accommodations for those who are truly handicapped. How can Manteca address the unchecked wanton disregard of common courtesy and the law since its ability to enforce is limited due to officer manpower, priority needs, and the fact well-trained volunteers can no longer write tickets for clear-cut non-moving violations such as blue zone violations and expired tags?

Since Sacramento created the problem, they can help correct the problem.

Assemblymember Kristen Olsen, R-Modesto, has already introduced and obtained passage of sensible laws to make handicapped rules work for everyone. Perhaps someone should approach her about having a law proposed that would empower well-trained police volunteers to issue tickets for non-moving vehicle violations such as handicapped parking violations in public access parking lots as well as expired tags regardless of whether the vehicle is on public property or quasi-public property such as shopping center parking lots. The state could set a uniform standard for such training.

As for handicapped parking zones on public streets, that would remain the exclusive responsibility of sworn law enforcement officers. Such a law should be possible since owners of shopping centers and such give cities the authority to enforce vehicle code violations on their premises in exchange for being allowed to build retail and office complexes.

It would address the handicapped parking issue. It would also assure that everyone pays their fair share by having current vehicle tags, which generate revenue for the state.

The question is whether the California Legislature can withstand any organized efforts by law enforcement unions who somehow believe it is taking money out of the mouths of their membership.

The issue should be the enforcement of good laws that almost every jurisdiction in the state, if not all, lacks the manpower and resources to effectively enforce.

And if that’s not enough, the prospect of more money to play with should entice the California Legislature to take action.



This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209-249-3519.

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