Marolt: Make the right people pay | AspenTimes.com

Marolt: Make the right people pay

Roger Marolt
Roger This

It's an admission of guilt. The other night I was doing north of 70 miles per hour westbound on Interstate 70 in a 60 zone. I glanced at my speedometer right at the moment I saw the state trooper coiled on the side of the road.

He nailed me. I was coming out of the tunnel, starting down the steep grade to Dillon, and slingshotting past a little Toyota pickup minding its business lawfully in the slow lane.

Smokey had me in his radar beam. We made eye contact. He started rolling, wheels and lights. I was so dead that I didn't hesitate even a second before cutting across two lanes in front of the Toyota to cry on the shoulder. I was already mashing the brakes, so why not do my part to make the process efficient? What slim chance I had at leniency wouldn't be hurt by making his job easier.

Then, depending on your perspective, a funny thing happened. As I sat waiting, the cop flew right past. He got on that Toyota's bumper and pulled him over in a light storm of red and blue. He nabbed the wrong guy.

The only thing I can think is that I pulled over so quickly he didn't expect it, and so he didn't see me. He might have been calling it in or glancing down to check the digits registered on his radar gun. When he looked up, there was only one car on the road. It had to be that guy.

I was relieved, but I felt guilty, because I was. I thought about stopping at the scene and admitting my crime to get that innocent guy off the hook. Then I thought that wasn't a good idea. Traffic stops are tense, especially in the dark. With his adrenaline up, the officer didn't need me confusing things. I'm sure he would have told me to get lost in a hurry. Everything for a reason, right?

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The point of the story is that my real crime of sending the innocent up the traffic court red-tape river was the trooper's fault. He screwed up. All I was doing was ignoring road signs, the law and resting my tired right foot on a spring-loaded pedal offering too little resistance.

It's the same thing going on in Aspen with the parking-meter mess. It's the government's fault. Never mind all those saintly people who fraudulently fed burned-out debit and prepaid credit cards into machines for nearly $1 million worth of free parking. Everybody knows nothing is against the law unless you get caught. The people who didn't catch them are the villains.

As long as I'm in the cleansing process, I'll admit to another crime. Back when paid parking was first implemented in Aspen, and we used scratch cards on the rearview mirror to prove we'd paid for the day, I carried a gray marker in my glove box and doctored up one of those cards for about a month's worth of free parking. I say this humbly now — I think working the system was different then.

Then, it was painfully new. We fixed up those cards and took our free parking as silent protest. Sure, I enjoyed the benefits of the cash savings, but I honestly (the words of a confessed crook) considered it more civil disobedience. I'll back those words by letting you know I said them to the Parking Department after it hit me with a $100 fine after I went to the Sharpie once too often. I made my point and a promise, and it waived the penalty. I've been ethically on the angle and parallel since.

As a hypocrite speaking the truth, what has been going on for the past few years with the meters around here is just wrong. Somebody used a bad debit card 117 times in July, for crying out loud.

Paid parking is way beyond the trial-and-protest period. We are used to it. We have accepted it. It is here to stay. Bucking the system today is a crime without a cause.

"Crime" is a strong word to use. But consider this: The parking scofflaws of today are fraudulently using financial instruments tied to the U.S. banking system, and they have absconded with almost $1 million of money that belongs to the taxpayers of our community. Yet, considering only these things, I still might give away the benefit of a doubt.

What dries up my leaning toward leniency, though, is that a lot of the criminals are blaming the city for committing a crime by not stopping them sooner. That is the appalling gall that reeks. It's time to put the pedal to the metal. Make the right people pay.

Roger Marolt thinks he knows the difference between a mistake and a crime. Contact him at roger@maroltllp.com.