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PBA, use more mature approach Ticket blitz frustrates residents, hurts merchants and scares visitors

There's a union tradition of working to rule. Police use the blue flu, or a ticket blitz. Three years ago, also in January, Buffalo officers unhappy about lack of a contract forced huge rush-hour slowdowns by stopping motorists to check inspection stickers. Now they may be ticketing those who don't move on time. Certainly we applaud the police officers' initiative and added productivity, though there are bigger crimes they could thwart than illegal parking. The extra money -- $130,000 more a month than usual at this rate of issuance -- helps too, especially if this continues for a year or more. And, too, illegal parking is a nuisance and law breakers should be fined.

But isn't this all a bit childish? Does Police Benevolent Association President Robert P. Meegan Jr. actually believe the best way to get the city and its control board to unfreeze wages is to unleash officers to tax by ticket Buffalo residents and visitors parked improperly? If this were a legitimate effort by police to enforce "zero tolerance" approaches to crime, as Meegan claims, why wouldn't the department warn motorists, as Cheektowaga police did last June in advance of a speeding crackdown? State, Amherst, Hamburg and Niagara Falls police have done similar, preannounced blitzes. When will city public union leaders try to deal creatively with management as the United Auto Workers and other private industry unions do?

Wouldn't it make more sense to save the city money? Reduce overtime. Cut absenteeism. Discuss with the new Brown administration ways to alter work rules to make policing more efficient. Writing 5,610 parking tickets in January compared to 1,920 a year earlier has one primary effect: It reinforces the wrong image too many people already hold that Buffalo is an out-of-control place to avoid. This won't help revitalize the city, bring in new sales and real estate taxes, balance the books or give the control board reason to lift the wage freeze. It's petty.

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