Most people have to serve the City of Ludington for a while and retire to get their key to the city.  I served the City officially for eight years and have served it as an 'unpaid consultant' for 15 years since, so maybe I deserve a key to the city during the city's sesquicentennial, but I thought it highly unlikely until yesterday when I lucked upon a half dozen keys to the city just by being observant.

Late on the morning of May 19, 2023, the beach was totally obscured by a persistent fog and one could barely make out any details of objects over 100 feet away.

I was midway through the sidewalk adjacent to the beach on Stearns Outer Drive, when I saw a poorly parked vehicle alongside the sidewalk.  Parking in that section is angle parking and so they were taking up a couple of spaces.  On closer inspection, it appears that they may have done this so as to not project their tail-end into the roadway, and that they were probably safe from being ticketed by the LPD because it was a City of Ludington utility maintenance truck.  

Nobody from the UM department was in the area, nor were they inside the truck, and since I came right up alongside the truck just by walking on the sidewalk, I happened to notice the keys to the vehicle were in the ignition.  A prior city attorney would recognize this as an 'attractive nuisance', where a person through their behavior allows a situation to arise that presents a danger to kids and other folks passing by, who, in this case, might just hop in the truck covered by fog and take it for a joyride, possibly wrecking it and subjecting the City of Ludington to liability for that and any injuries or death that may result by consequence.

I went past the north concession stand after taking that picture while considering this neglectful act and thought that I really should do something to protect the public.  So I took the above picture about ten minutes after the first (there was still nobody around) to show the fog and the vehicle's location.  I then rechecked to see that the keys were still present and remembered a law from the City's books regarding the leaving of keys in an unattended vehicle, originally introduced by LPD Chief Mark Barnett, now the mayor:

Sure enough, the keys were still in the vehicle and after waiting a couple more minutes looking through the slowly dissipating fog and still seeing nobody, I checked the driver's side door (it was open) and removed the key from the ignition in order to secure the vehicle and prevent it from becoming a potential costly liability to the city.  

I continued my walk, since I still had two objectives to check out, and about a half hour later, during lunch hour apparently, I returned the keys to the city vehicle to the new deputy clerk at city hall, after finding out that the city manager and Mayor Barnett was not available.  I politely expressed my concerns about city employees being so careless with the people's equipment.

I've yet to be thanked by the employees whose keys I secured and so if it happens again, I definitely will have more fun with how I proceed.

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If that vehicle had been stolen, just think of the excuses that would have been made up to explain what happened. In another life I worked at a company where employees drove company vehicles. A few of us would meet at a particular restaurant for lunch every day. Since the vehicles were parked outside the restaurant window and could be observed, one of  the employees had the bad habit of leaving the keys in the vehicles ignition. When he went to use the restroom we decided to teach him a lesson. We moved his car to the other side of the parking lot. When he came back and looked out the window the shocked look on his face was worth a million dollars. After he ran out of the restaurant looking for his car we all had a good laugh. From then on, those keys stayed in his pocket when the vehicle was parked.


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