Carthage Mayor Mike Harris normally walks from his home to Carthage City Hall for his routine daily business.
When Harris does drive, he normally parks on the Square in front of City Hall — and he's subject to the same rules as everyone else — park over two hours and risk a parking ticket.
“I usually get here between 9 and 9:30 and stay until noon, which exceeds the two-hour limit as we all know,” Harris said on Thursday, Jan. 4. “And this past Tuesday, when I left at noon, I had a ticket on my jeep for, the actual legal definition is 23-024, overtime.”
Harris said he wasn't upset about the ticket, he knows the risk and he was proud of the police department for not playing favorites, even with the city's chief executive.
“If it's good for you, it's good for me,” Harris said. “While I do have the ticket, and I could use the $5 for something else, I have no problem paying my fine. And since then, I've walked every day.
“The police department doesn't show any favors and that's the way it should be. I look it as, no matter what I do, I have to obey the laws and if I don't I'm subject to the same penalties that everyone else should be.”

Never goes away
Parking on and around the Carthage Square is an issue that seems to crop up for one reason or another every few years.
Last summer, The Carthage City Council made the most extensive revision to parking rules on the Square in years.
A new ordinance approved in July 2017 increased the fine for overtime parking from $1 to $5 and specified that overtime parking will only be enforced from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday. Before these changes the overtime parking rules applied 24 hours a day seven days a week, but police only enforced them during business hours.

No exceptions
Since then, the council's public safety committee has rejected a request from a group of citizens that gathers at the new Rumor Has It restaurant on the east side of the Square to play bridge to waive the two-hour limit for drivers with handicapped placards.
The group made the request at the October public safety meeting. Linda Bailey, speaking for the group, asked that the committee consider not issuing tickets to vehicles with handicapped placards.
“We were told that even if you're in the handicapped spot, if you're there for more than two hours, you get a ticket,” Bailey said. “It wouldn't do them any good to park there, they're still going to get a ticket. What I'm saying and they're requesting, don't give them a ticket if they have a handicapped sticker.”
The committee listened to Bailey's presentation, then decided to take no action.
“When you start making exceptions for one group, you have to make exceptions for all,” said committee member Dan Rife. “They were talking about the whole (Americans with Disabilities Act) thing, and that was set up not to make special privileges for one group but to make equal access for everybody. I think if you start providing perks for one group, then you have to provide perks for any group.”
Committee member Jason Shelfer agreed.
“If we change the system for one solitary ticket, we'll never be done with it,” Shelfer said at the meeting. “I think we can fix that without rewriting the laws, I think Rumor Has It can fix it or whomever the shop is where they take up time. I was never entertaining the idea of a three-hour or four-hour parking limit, and handicapped, I just can't imagine it's that significant an issue, and the business owner can pay the ticket.”
Committee member Tim Shields said he can see a risk of people who drive cars with handicapped placards, but are not handicapped, taking advantage of any exception the city makes.
“You also run the risk of people who have handicapped stickers who aren't actually handicapped taking advantage of that just like they do in every private or public parking area in town,” Shields said. “At Walmart, I see it happen on the Square already, people coming into the courthouse, they hang their handicapped tag then run into the building.”

More traffic for businesses
Mayor Harris said the parking limit serves an important purpose by keeping traffic on the Square moving and allowing more people to use the limited amount of parking in font of Square businesses.
“Ever since I've been on council, parking has come and gone as an issue, there's no one ever happy with what we're doing,” Harris said. “Primarily we have the two-hour limit because we like to have the merchants on the Square have the opportunity to have many customers throughout the day.There's been a lot of issues with employees parking in front of doors, county employees not parking in the county lot. This recently came to a head, we increased the fine from $1 to $5 and the decision was made that if we're going to have the ordinances, we need to enforce them completely. I find no fault with that decision.”
Harris said the Square is surrounded by free parking lots owned by the city. The city and the citizens committee, Vision Carthage, are looking at ways to improve those lots and make them more attractive and usable.
“The Square is surrounded by three public parking lots and some of them were pretty run down,” he said. “Work has already started on them, we've had some cracks sealed and some resurfacing done. Through Vision Carthage, there is an interest in perhaps beautifying them and making them more appealing to the public.”