Henry Grabar is a staff writer for Slate’s Moneybox and a former fellow at CityLab. He lives in New York.
Generosity and harassment go hand in hand in Keene.
Keene, New Hampshire, is a magical place where no one ever gets a parking ticket.
Thanks to a group called Robin Hood of Keene, some 4,000 Keene drivers have avoided parking tickets entirely for at least four years. That's because the Merry Men are always a step ahead of the meter maid with a few quarters, leaving only a small note: "Your meter expired; however, we saved you from the king's tariffs, Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Please consider paying it forward."
Parking enforcers of Keene have not found the Merry Men so merry. In a lawsuit filed by the City of Keene against six members of the group, the city alleges that the parking meter vigilantes "regularly, repeatedly and intentionally taunted, interfered with, harassed and intimidated" the city's employees, even touching them. One parking enforcement officer alleged in an affidavit he was called "bitch," "coward," and a "murderer of brown babies," in reference to his military service. Another claims to have suffered heart palpitations as a result of similar harassment.
The city is seeking an injunction to keep the Robin Hood crew at least 50 feet away from its on-duty parking officers; James Cleaveland, a Robin Hooder blogging at libertarian blog Free Keene, says the suit is "ridiculous."
"Most importantly, according to the job description for a city of Keene parking enforcer," Cleaveland writes, "'This position requires a person' to 'relate with the general public' and 'Endure verbal and mental abuse when confronted with the hostile views and opinions of the public and other individuals often encountered in an antagonistic environment.'
See? They had it coming!
Top image: Flickr/Mechanikat.