Friday, November 23, 2007

The latest from the City of Balagan

I hope you all had as good a thanksgiving as I did. It was great spending the day with family and sampling my daughter's expertise in the kitchen.

A little Hebrew lesson. This one you won't find in the Bible. Balagan: Synonym=SNAFU, Situation Normal--All Fouled Up (I told you this is blog is rated PG). Chaos caused by lack of ability. A mess caused by idiots who don't know what they are doing.

Case in point: New Haven. The latest balagan has to do with press parking. It seems there have been press parking stickers or parking passes printed up and distributed to some media who cover New Haven. The police are supposed to recognize these passes when reporters want to park illegally when covering certain events. Now, Brian McGrath, the city's parking czar, has repudiated the passes, saying they never were any good, according to a clip posted on The New Haven Independent site.

So, when a reporter wants to cover a story, he or she must find a valid parking spot and pay the fee. The police are supposed to ticket and, if appropriate, tow the reporters' cars. Remember, these are the same police who have been ordered not to ask people being questioned as crime suspects whether they are in the country legally. So far, so good.

There seems to be no difference between the treatment of a reporter covering a Chamber of Commerce breakfast or one covering a terrorism incident at a downtown shopping mall. (I use this example because New Haven doesn't have a downtown shopping mall, so I can't be accused to sensationalism.) McGrath also said the parking passes issued to city inspectors and members of the Board of Aldermen are given out based on laws that are on the city's books, so they are legal. There has never been a city parking pass law, so there is no basis for the press passes. After all, aldermen should not be required to feed the meter when shopping downtown. Seriously -- you have to get something for all the time you spend giving the mayor a $16,000 raise.

A little history: I've been a working journalist for more than 40 years, the majority of it in Connecticut in general and a good chunk of that in New Haven in particular. When I started, in the late 1960s, there was a State Police-issued press pass. You got one every year. On the top, it said "Conn. State Police", it had the state seal, your picture on it, said "Press" in big impressive letters, and it was signed by none other than the commissioner of the State Police. Each year, the strip saying "Conn. State Police" was a different color, so you needed to renew it each year. Police were instructed to allow the bearer across police lines and you, as a reporter, were instructed that you weren't to use it unless you were working and your organization was instructed that the State Police bore no responsibility if the reporter dashed into a burning building and became kindling or the felon the cops were chasing used you for target practice.

In fact, during the anti-war activities of the late '60s and early '70s, the state police undercover people started carrying press passes so they could infiltrate the hippies who were smoking grass and agitating for peace. That practice was stopped after a confrontation between top editors and the governor.

Then, a few years later, the pass changed. It still had the state seal on it, but it didn't say state police on it. It did say Press in big impressive letters and was signed by your editor or manager. But the cops still respected it and let you into crime scenes and the like.

Then, around the late 1970s, the state stopped issuing press passes, but the police still respected passes issued by the various news organizations. There was a silly event during the tornado that hit the Bradley International Airport area in 1979. The state police recognized the press passes and said reporters could enter, but only cars marked with the name of the news organizations could enter the affected area. That, of course, limited the transport to television trucks. But intrepid print reporters -- in the case of the Journal-Courier of New Haven Janet Kipphut (now Ainsworth) and Bob Phllips, among others, got in all the same. I was in radio communication with the reporters that night as the controlling editor. (no cell phones yet). The coverage was voted best breaking news coverage in every state and regional news organization.

Anyway, I guess this run down Memory Lane was to show that parking passes never were in the picture. So, this is merely another chapter in the ongoing New Haven balagan.

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Last night, friend wife and I decided to take advantage of a bargain at COMP USA. When we got to the Boston Post Road store in Orange, the line was out the door, along the wall and almost onto the next property. After going around the block, we decided to give it a try.

Actually, it was fun. We met a nice guy named Keith and we chatted for the half hour it took before we were admitted to the store. To make it even better, we found what we came in for. Everybody was saying that today (Nov. 23, 2007) would be a nightmare. So, we will quit while we are ahead. But just like attending Kosherfest in New York, it's something to do once for the experience. For the rest of you shoppers, good luck.

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Well, unlike some, Len's Lens is working the Friday after Thanksgiving, if for no other reason than to wish all a great weekend and for those in the Tribe, a great Shabbos.

Until next time...

1 comment:

Janet said...

A bit of irony to add to this story. I am now one of the lawyers for the Department of Public Safety, which includes the Connecticut State Police. I still do not have an employer-provided vehicle, but pretty soon, a lot of other state employees won't either.