, Newburyport, MA

May 16, 2007

Man parks truck illegally in the name of democracy

By Nick Pinto , Staff Writer

NEWBURYPORT - It's Clete Kijek's civic duty to rack up parking tickets.

Since Monday, Kijek's pickup truck has been parked in Brown Square directly across from the front door of City Hall. Bolted to the back are two bright red signs that read "Vote May 22."

Kijek said he intends to leave his truck in front of City Hall for the next week to raise awareness for the special election Tuesday, which will decide the $1.58 million Proposition 21/2 tax override.

The thing is, his truck is parked in a two-hour parking spot.

By 10 a.m. yesterday, Kijek had already received one parking ticket for overstaying his time, but he's not planning on moving the truck.

"It's important to me that people know about this election and show up at the polls to vote," said Kijek, who is a member of the anti-override group Know Newburyport. "I would have thought it would be important to folks in City Hall, too."

Kijek said he is disappointed that city officials haven't done more to publicize the election and said it makes him wonder whether there is a tacit effort to keep voter turnout low so the override passes.

City Clerk Richard Jones dismissed Kijek's suggestion.

"We never advertise or put up signs for any of our elections," Jones said. "We rely on various local publications to let people know, which they do."

Since Kijek's signs don't advocate for one side or the other, and since they reinforce the city's policy of encouraging voter turnout, Jones said he's actually grateful for Kijek's gesture. But as the city's parking supervisor, Jones said he can't let Kijek disregard the law.

"There are a lot of places he could put the truck that wouldn't be a parking violation," he said.

But Kijek said the spot he's chosen offers unique visibility for people visiting City Hall and the post office.

Kijek initially offered to pay $35 for a special permit to keep the truck in front of City Hall, but the offer was declined. Kijek then submitted a letter to the City Council offering to pay for the space, but the council took no action on the letter when it met on Monday.

At $10 a ticket, and the possibility of getting four tickets per day, Kijek estimates he could end up owing the city $240 by the end of Election Day. But he said he's not going anywhere.

"Whatever side you're on, everybody should want as many people to vote as possible," he said. "If you don't get at least half of the people to turn out and vote at the polls, the result won't have the kind of legitimacy you want."

So Kijek is resigned to visiting his truck a few times a day to collect his parking tickets before they get blown away or rained on.

"It's only money," he said. "And as far as I'm concerned, if this gets more people to the polls, it's money well spent."