In 2004, a guy named Peter Tubic got a $50 “zoning enforcement” fine for parking his van without license plates in the privately-owned driveway of his parents’ house where he lived.
Four years later, the city of Milwaukee is seizing Tubic’s $245,000 home because he never paid that fine.
Tubic first got the fine for parking his Ford E150 with no license plates in the driveway of the home, which belonged to his parents at the time . The radiator had broken and Tubic couldn’t get his plates renewed unless the van passed an emissions test. He didn’t have the money to make the repair and had more pressing worries, he said.
His father was suffering from dementia. His mother was battling cancer, and he was their live-in caretaker. He needed to shop, cook, clean, maintain the house and tend to his parents’ needs.
The van repair could wait, he thought.
Then a man from the city showed up and told him otherwise. It was February 2004. Tubic would have to move the van or get license plates for it within 30 days, per city zoning codes, the man said. Somebody had complained.
Several days later Tubic’s dad died. Tubic was overwhelmed, he said.
“It was a combination of things financial and emotional, my caregiving role, all heaped themselves on me at the wrong time,” he said. “I still don’t function well.”
Month after month the city Department of Neighborhood Services sent an inspector to the house to see if the van had moved or had license plates. Each time a new fee was assessed. And a letter was sent to Tubic’s home.
At no time did Tubic call or write to object or explain his circumstances, city officials said. So the bureaucratic cog kept turning.
Tubic’s $50 fine escalated to $1,475, and after it was clear he wasn’t going to respond, the city filed a tax lien. While Tubic paid the property taxes, he never paid the $1,475 for the zoning violation. With interest and penalties, he owed $2,645 before the city foreclosed on Monday.
So let’s get this straight. This guy gets a $50 ticket for parking his van on private property with no Wisconsin license plates, because he can’t get the plates until he gets the van fixed and he can’t afford it. Speaking as someone who grew up with a forest of junked cars in the woods beside his parent’s house, that’s the first thing I don’t get.
But ignore that for a second. He doesn’t pay the ticket, pulling out a long laundry list of medical and psychological conditions that basically boil down to “I can’t handle this so I’m going to ignore it.” OK. The ticket eventually reaches almost $1,500 with penalties and interest, at which point the city of Milkwaukee files a tax lien on the house.
Now, please note carefully: HE PAID HIS PROPERTY TAXES. Why didn’t he pay the ticket? Hell, who knows. But he didn’t. And because of that–a four-year-old $50 ticket for having a van with no license plates parked ON PRIVATE PROPERTY–the city of Milwaukee has seized this guy’s house.
What part of the concept of private property do these morons in Milwaukee not understand? Why are they allowed to do something like this? You want to come after the guy for the $1500 he owes you on the original ticket? Go for it, even though I’m not convinced of the legality of most “zoning enforcement” bullshit tickets in the first place. But taking a man’s dwelling and land because of it when he’s kept up the property taxes? Nuh-uh. Straight-up first class bullshit.
Didn’t we fight a war about, oh, 230 years ago over something like this?