Digital Originals

The Problem With a $50 Utica Parking Ticket

I remember my first Utica parking ticket. I was 17 years old and only had my license and my new…

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I remember my first Utica parking ticket.

Utica Parking Ticket

I was 17 years old and only had my license and my new (to me) car for about six weeks when I decided that, instead of driving home after a pretty wild post football game party, I’d be better off crashing at the host’s house and leaving in the morning once the cheap beer and even cheaper plastic-bottle liquor had a chance to work its way out of my system. There was no room for me in the driveway and I knew that the rule was “no parking over night between 2am and 6am” within the City of Utica, but I figured that since we were on a dead end street in a quiet neighborhood in East Utica the cops would give me a pass. My car wasn’t in anyone’s way and besides, there were a few other cars that had made the same decision as me. Surely Utica’s Finest would see all of us doing the right thing and silently thank all of us for not stumbling out behind the wheel and endangering ourselves or others by trying to get our cars home so that Sulzer Place could be free of beat up Civics and rusty pickup trucks for the night. I was wrong.

That was my first Utica parking ticket, but it would not be my last. For every parking ticket I got that was me being forgetful, lazy or just brazenly rolling the dice that the cops wouldn’t notice for one night, I got just as many that were products of circumstance outside of my control. Living in an apartment with more cars than you have driveway space for? Utica parking ticket. Fell asleep watching a movie at a friend’s house late at night? Utica parking ticket. Had one or two Utica Clubs too many and decide not to drive? Utica parking ticket. There was a particularly prolific stretch when I was still living at home where I’d get home from work at around midnight, only for my father to move my car out of the driveway when he left for work at 4:30am, which technically meant my car was breaking the law and I was subject to a Utica parking ticket. Even today, like many people here in Utica, I live in an apartment that is half of a two family home with a single file driveway. If there are four cars in the driveway, one of them has to block the sidewalk which is, you guessed it, a $50 violation. It has always been a hassle and anybody who’s lived in the area probably knows that sinking feeling of walking out to your car and seeing that unmistakable piece of paper underneath their windshield wiper. Once upon a time this would cost you a minor headache and $20 to take care of. Annoying, but not unreasonable. If you didn’t pay it within 72 hours the Utica parking ticket fee would jump to $50, which is also fair since you did break the law and 72 hours should be enough time to scrape together $20. If you still continued to ignore a ticket and it got to the point that they came looking for you, your $20 Utica parking ticket would turn into $100. Again, I don’t disagree with that price structure. It’s a perfectly fair fine to levy if the offender lets their Utica parking ticket go that far and $100 is a great deterrent to keep people from not taking parking tickets seriously.

This system was in place until April 1, 2012, when the Common Council implemented an increase in parking ticket fines from a $20-$50-$100 tiered system to a new $50-$100-$150 price structure along with a renewed effort to collect delinquent tickets and start booting cars that had an excessive amount of outstanding tickets. The argument was that the city had a large number of people who weren’t bothering to pay their tickets and that a considerable amount of revenue was being lost because of this. To be fair the city did increase their revenue taken in from parking violations, going from roughly $247,000 collected in the 2011-2012 fiscal year to nearly $349,000 collected at the close of the 2015 fiscal year. This increase undoubtedly owes partial credit to the car booting system that forces people to pay their tickets before they can drive. However, no data is available to see just how much of that increase was due to booting delinquent motorists and how much of it was just money collected from the 150% increase in the cost of a basic Utica parking ticket.

I’m not here to argue that parking laws shouldn’t be enforced, that delinquent motorists shouldn’t be held accountable or that the City of Utica is in the wrong for trying to find as many ways as possible to increase revenue. I’m not going to say that the City has no right to enforce their own parking laws and fine the citizens who violate them. I’ll leave that line of argument up to all the local armchair anarchists to protest. I’m simply saying that there needs to be a level of fairness and common sense applied situationally based on circumstances. Not all Utica parking ticket violations are equal and they should not be fined as equals.

Utica Parking Ticket

If you park in a fire zone, handicapped spot or blocking a driveway I think $50 is more than fair and you’re getting off easy. If you’re leaving your car on a quiet residential street overnight in fair weather, I think $50 is highway robbery. Utica is a city with many people doing their best to scrape by and for many people a $50 ticket is the difference between food on the table this week or doing without. If you make the same choice that most of us would, then that ticket you already couldn’t afford turns into being twice as expensive. If your living situation is such that you don’t always have room in your driveway to park or you end up blocking a sidewalk then you can very quickly find yourself owing the city $500 plus dollars with a boot on your car that prevents you from getting to the job where you’d make the money to dig yourself out of this hole in the first place. Like they say, being poor is expensive. I have to wonder how many of Utica’s roughly 20,000 unpaid parking tickets are unpaid because, in today’s trying economic times, more people than we’d like to admit are in a situation where they can’t part with $50 on 72 hours notice.

There is no all-encompassing answer that I can give to the issue of the Utica parking ticket. Parking violations do need to be enforced and fines do need to be collected. The city needs revenue to continue to keep its head above water and build on the momentum growing here. There needs to be a system in place that holds people accountable and doesn’t let the scofflaws get off scot-free while the law abiding citizens foot the bill. These are points we can all agree on. What I cannot agree with is $50 being the baseline starting point for even the most minor parking violations. It’s a band aid fix that doesn’t address the real problem at hand and, four years later, it’s time for the city to reconsider something that should’ve just been a bad April Fool’s Day joke on the day it launched.

Kevin Sullivan is a Co-Founder of Made In Utica and Co-Host of The Uticast. You can tell him all the things he’s wrong about on Twitter @_kevinsullivan

Digital Originals

My mentee is eleven years old. He is my friend. And he changed my life.

Last year right around this time I was feeling like something was missing from my life. The holidays were over…

The following is a guest blog by #madeinutica friend Rachel Hayes.

Last year right around this time I was feeling like something was missing from my life. The holidays were over and I was left in a funk. I wanted to do something that made me feel like I was making an impact. So I did what any other 25 year old would do, I asked Google what I could do.

I ended up finding the New York State Mentoring Program. I decided to fill out an application. Turns out The Rome City School district was starting to implement this program within a month. I got the green light from work, went to a training program and was on my way to becoming a mentor!

The story I want to share with you today is how this Mentoring Program that I stumbled across at eleven o’clock one night, and applied without giving it much thought, has changed my life.

The beginning of the program the mentors and mentees did a lot of group activities so our Site Coordinator could determine who worked well together and pair us up. We had a few weeks of group activities before paring. The day of pairing came and our Site Coordinator went through one by one and paired us with our mentees. Slowly the group of mentees was getting smaller and smaller and I still wasn’t matched! I remember thinking that under no circumstance did I want this little boy who was one of the two left. He was rambunctious and didn’t seem to follow any directions. And what would you know, of course I was paired with him. I remember thinking that this was a mistake. I wanted to ask “why him?” I remember thinking that I didn’t think we would work well together. We would have nothing in common. I was worried to say the least.

The weeks to follow, I decided to put my negative thoughts aside and embrace this match. What else was I to do? I didn’t want to seem like this evil person who disliked this little boy I hardly knew. But that’s how I felt. To my surprise, my mentee and I began to really connect. He loves to talk. I also love to talk. We talked about tv shows, movies and video games. He loves to play Jenga. I love to play Jenga. He loves space. I love space. We spent a lot of time talking about time in space and black holes. I had just watched Interstellar so of course I was an expert on the subject.

 By the end of the program, my mentee and I were besties.

We clicked in a way that I really never imagined we could. We had our good and bad days but him and I really bonded throughout the remaining school year. I didn’t want it to be over! Everyone had told me that they could see a change in him from the beginning of the program. I didn’t want to show it, but I was so excited. I felt like I had really done something important.

My original plan was at the start of the new school year, I would transfer to the Utica City School district. I wanted to be a little closer to work and home. But when I found out that we had the option to stay at our school and be paired up with our same mentee if they decided to join the program again, I jumped at the opportunity with hopes that we could be paired again in the upcoming school year. Little did I know that the re-districting that Rome was going through would cause him to be transferred to a different Elementary school.

Fast forward to the new school year, and I started the program again. To my disappointment, my mentee was not in the program. I decided not to ask about him. I was really upset but I couldn’t let that distract me from the students this year. I didn’t know where he was or how he was doing. I had hoped that he would remember me and this experience.

We are currently in the pairing stage again. This year, I really didn’t feel much of a connection with any of the students but I was hoping that would change once we were individually paired up.

What happened next was the best “bad news” I ever received.

I got a phone call from my Site Coordinator last week that changed everything. My mentee wasn’t doing well in his new program or at his new school. His new Site Coordinator tried to pair him up with someone before the rest of the group so he could get additional one on one time. When she mentioned this to him prior to mentoring he was very excited. When he arrived to mentoring that day, he looked around for his mentor and he repeatedly asked “Where is she? Where is she?” His new mentor re-introduced herself as his new mentor and he replied to the room, “That is NOT my mentor. I want my mentor!” He was talking about me! He was excited because he thought I was going to be there. I don’t think my heart has ever been as full as it was when I heard this story. Choked up with tears in my eyes, I let my Site Coordinator know that I would do ANYTHING that they needed from me.

Yesterday we were paired up again! We spent an hour catching up. When he first arrived to the program, he was upset. There was a lot of adjusting he was going though and it just wasn’t a good day. It took a few minutes to get him to calm down but we managed. I am not saying I am a child whisper by any means, but I managed to get him smiling by the end. That smile warmed my heart and made everything worth it. He is my mentee again and we will back to meeting once a week until the end of the school year!

I went into this program thinking that I would be able to make an impact on someone. Little did I know that this program would have such an impact on me. I don’t think my mentee will ever know what he has done for me. I have become a better listener and developed more patience since meeting him. I have learned to put aside whatever I am going through to put him first every time we meet. Also, I have learned about countless mythical creatures that I can’t call to or else they will wreak havoc on my life and haunt my house.

My mentee is eleven years old. He wants to be an inventor when he grows up. His favorite tv show is Doctor Who. He one of the smartest kids I know. He is my friend. And he changed my life.

There are New York State Mentoring programs in both the Rome and Utica School districts. Mentors need to complete fingerprinting and a background check along with a training program before they are able to be place into a program. The program is held once a week for an hour. Visit the website for more information and to apply. They are always looking for new people. Let some little boy or girl change your life as well!


Questions about mentoring? Slide into Rachel’s DMs @raehayes_

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Digital Originals

Top 10 of 2017

I think we can all agree that 2017 was a pretty crazy year. Politically, culturally, socially, both across the country...

I think we can all agree that 2017 was a pretty crazy year. Politically, culturally, socially, both across the country and even here in our tiny #madeinutica bubble. We’ve grown in some areas, changed in others but we’ve had some fun too. We know that all of you are the reason we keep pushing the boundaries, brainstorming, cultivating and spreading the good news of Utica – so thank you.

Here’s a list of 2017 Top 10 Made In Utica moments but more importantly, what they’ve taught us.

1. The 2nd Annual Everything

2017 brought the 2nd Annual Utica Day, 2nd Annual Passport Release Party and the 2nd Annual Downtown Getdown.

  • Utica Day at MVCC upgraded to a bigger venue and beat our 2016 attendance – plus the return of our panel.
  • Passport Party moved to Franklin Square with live music once again, and kicked off the Franklin Square Film Series. Plus an awesome Super Mario theme to match our 2017 Passport design.
  • Downtown Getdown once again took place in Bagg’s Square, Franklin Square and the Brewery District. This time we added Crossfit, a Zagster partnership, kids activities, all local bands in the alley, a pop up shop and a big party at Nail Creek. Plus we raised $200 for the Midtown Utica Community Center!

Look out for the 3rd Annual Everything this coming year.

Lesson: Complacency is boring. Success just means you have to do things bigger and better than last time.

2. Getting Gibbz

I’ve been a fan of Gibbz from Brooklyn, NY since 2014. So when we planned our first music fest, the 2016 Downtown Getdown, we knew needed him. But – Made In Utica was poor. We threw the festival together in a month with little help and just enough budget to cover essentials (we even had to get a porta-potty sponsor). It was a no-go.

One year later in summer of 2017, it was our goal to get Gibbz to Utica for the return of the Downtown Getdown. We had already proven ourselves and we had some great partners. Especially because of AmeriCU and Rust2Green, we were finally able to make our Gibbz dream come true.

It was so cool to be able to bring one of my favorite artists to my favorite city!

Lesson: Don’t give up. Keep asking.

3. Yoga in the Square

We totally have to give props to Bite Bakery | Cafe for this one. Promoting events with them has been a dream. Yoga in the Square happened twice a month, all summer long, and you all came out to enjoy a peaceful (and free!) Saturday class with Sara Miller Yoga. Even on the coldest of mornings, it gave our hearts warmth to see all you yogis show up to support.

Lesson: Push boundaries of doing new things in old places.

4. 25,000 Strong

We’re at just about 25,000 uses of #madeinutica on Instagram of products, art, events, history, friends and food. 35,000 impressions a week. 7,500 followers. Whoa, what a community.

Lesson: If you build it, they will come.

5. Big Business for Passport Designers

Remember how cool our 2016 Passport was? It was unique for us because it was designed by two very talented local women. Sarah of The Adirondack Ink designed the interior pages, and Maria of Retro Sorrento designed the cover. It has been so amazing to watch these two artists grow, especially in the last year.

We first worked with The Adirondack Ink back in 2015 for our Homegrown Gift Boxes. Her business has simply blown up since then. 2017 has shown incredible success with her Ink & Drink classes, holiday decorations, wedding designs, her first pop-up and so much more. And this coming year, Sarah will be devoting her time to take The Adirondack Ink to the next level.

How much love can we possibly show for Maria Vallese? She’s been a favorite of ours since the very beginning of this little website. In addition to the Passport, she’s also worked on other custom projects for us including the Utica Coloring Book. We’re so thrilled for her most recent work with Saranac Brewery – she’s been busy in 2017 creating amazing illustrations to adorn your favorite brewery’s bottles.

We are so incredibly proud of these two artists who we’ve worked with for so long, and to see the success they’ve had. The future is bright for you both!

Lesson: Work with us.

6. Discover

One big change we’ve made is the way we promote and share events with you. We halted our Weekly Round Up mid-year to produce our site calendar, highlighting carefully curated events in our area. Plus we’ve seen incredible growth and use of our Facebook Events Group, which is user-generated and supported.

Lesson: Roll with the punches and keep finding better ways to distribute information. 

7. Five Films, Four Trailers

Our Franklin Square Film Series came back in a big way this year. We brought five movies and four new Made In Utica trailers (check them out on Facebook). We worked incredibly hard to keep you all coming downtown, enjoying movies with us and our partners Bite Bakery | Cafe and Nomad Cinema.

Lesson: We won’t lie, making these trailers was often tedious – but you have to give the people what they want. You asked for more, we provided.

8. Getting Funky with Levitt AMP

We had the privilege of sponsoring the Levitt AMP Utica Music Series week when Sophistafunk came to town. What a show and great experience in Downtown Utica. Levitt AMP is free, fun and good for the community. We can’t wait for more next year!

Lesson: If Michelle Truett asks you to do anything, say yes.

9. 52 Weeks, 52 Uticasts

Another year of a brand new episode of the Uticast every week. Let’s give local nobody/showrunner Sam the credit he deserves, for sticking it out through sickness, holidays, politics and more to produce new content weekly. Plus props to Sam and Kevin for adding the lovely Heather Waz to the show this year!

No shame in sharing my own episode with you:

Lesson: It’s a lot harder than it looks to put on a weekly anything.

10. Genesis Award

A really cool moment for me this year was being named a Striving for Success honoree from the Genesis Group and I have no doubt it is because of Made In Utica. My speech (!) went something along the lines of- “Thanks to my parents for teaching me to work hard… blah blah… thanks Justin Parkinson for letting me do whatever I want with Made In Utica… blah blah… Do It For Utica.”

But in all seriousness, I have grown a lot because of Made In Utica, personally and professionally. It’s also great to see Made In Utica getting some recognition for all the hard work we do.

Lesson: Do what you love and it will be worth it.

Honorable Mention – #WoodstockLives

The morning of the Passport Release party in Franklin Square, I woke up with a to-do list a mile long. But scratch that – our Made In Utica mascot, Justin’s beloved pup Woodstock, was very sick. Bringing Woodstock to see Dr. Gabby at the Beaver Meadow Veterinary Clinic was the best thing to do. Emergency surgery while we were setting up the party, and by the afternoon we got the good word that #WoodstockLives.

#woodstocklives. Cancer free. dr.gabby says so. @uticast #madeinutica

A post shared by Made In Utica (@madeinutica) on

Lesson: Have faith and a good vet.

As we close out 2017, Made In Utica wishes you all lots of peace and love. We’re looking forward to a new year and we can’t wait to show you some of the tricks we have up our sleeves. Happy New Year!

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Digital Originals

Pick Your Teddy Bear Toss Bear

One of our favorite Holiday events is the New York Sash Teddy Bear Toss and we’re here to give you advice…

One of our favorite Holiday events is the New York Sash Teddy Bear Toss and we’re here to give you advice on Picking Your Bears!


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Digital Originals

Peek inside the Zuhaus

A little peek inside the Zuhaus – Utica Aud’s, errr… Adirondack Bank Center’s most elite VIP Suite. I recently visited…

A little peek inside the Zuhaus – Utica Aud’s, errr… Adirondack Bank Center’s most elite VIP Suite. I recently visited the suite to promote the upcoming New York Sash Teddy Bear Toss with Utica College Hockey. The Zuhaus is just one of many new improvements to our beloved Auditorium, but this suite is nothing of Aud days gone by.

The Zuhaus is the epitome of luxury for watching hockey in Downtown Utica.

Of course, there’s rows of comfortable, padded “arena” seating. Two different living room setups with multiple couches and tables. Local artwork adorn the walls, two private bathrooms and a catering buffet area. Full hospitality service and a very colorful light-up bar.


Fun Fact: Out of 4,000 cans sold a game, 3,500 are Utica Comets-branded Labatt Blue.

Want to watch a game from the Zuhaus, or any of the new VIP Suites? Good luck… you’ve got to know someone who knows someone who can get you on a waiting list. The suites are booked for the season through Partners and Sponsors for both Comets and Pioneers games. Time to call in those favors!

However… you COULD sit in a suite for the Teddy Bear Toss… with 19 friends.

One of our favorite holiday events, the 13th annual New York Sash Teddy Bear Toss is Saturday, December 9th for Utica College Pioneer Men’s Hockey vs. Neumann University. When Utica scores their first goal, fans throw their teddy bear donations onto the ice. All toys will be collected and donated to local children this coming holiday season.

All you have to do watch the game from a suite is enter the New York Sash VIP Giveaway. Get a free ride from Impressions Limosuine, free food and access to an Adirondack Bank Center suite with service. $4,500 value – So enter here!

And Zuhaus or no Zuhaus, we hope to see you out at the Adirondack Bank Center supporting local hockey real soon.

Thanks New York Sash for the video!

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