Editorial From the Garner-Clayton Record, October 20:
For those who don't know, Clayton has gone the way of Smithfield, moving parking violations to civil from criminal court. We hope that Clayton fares better than Smithfield.
In the county seat, the move has been disastrous, at least for merchants, who rely on turnover in parking spaces to generate sales.
The last time we checked, Smithfield was holding scores of unpaid parking tickets worth thousands of dollars. The town says it would be financially irresponsible to pay a lawyer to collect the meager fines.
Clayton leaders say they will take a different approach. Instead of a lawyer, the town, when it has a good number of unpaid tickets, will send an employee to the courthouse in Smithfield to file claims in small-claims court.
And what if that tack fails? The town says it will employ a little-known state program that pretty much allows government to extract money from anyone who owes it.
We would encourage Smithfield leaders to keep an eye on Clayton's experiment.
As it is now, Smithfield police seldom issue parking citations because doing so is literally a waste of time and taxpayer resources. In the meantime, downtown shopkeepers are helpless as inconsiderate motorists hog valuable parking real estate for hours at a time.
Clayton can be a cocky town, so perhaps it's overly confident about its ability to cheaply collect parking fines. But if Clayton is right, then Smithfield owes its downtown merchants a new approach to parking enforcement.