Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Proposed Constitutional Amendment

I am not an elected official, nor do I play one on TV. But, if I were, I would quickly draw up legislation proposing a constitutional amendment that outlaws the use of parking all situations...period. OK, yes I got a parking ticket today. But it was just the inspiration for writing this...not the ideas behind it. I've been an ardent fan of the idea of doing away with parking meters for some time.

First of all, I don't understand the logic behind parking meters. They are paid for, installed and maintained at considerable expense by the cities that own them. Then these jurisdictions have to hire people to go around and check the meters, and the vehicles parked by them, to make sure some hardened criminal isn't "breaking the law" by not feeding the meter. Then you have all of the administrative work that deals with collecting the fines from the tickets. Is this really an important function of a city government?

Wouldn't the tax dollars spent on meters be better spent by using them to encourage the public to do business in the city? Perhaps they could advertise the city's fine "no charge public parking" policy. Perhaps they could beautify the shopping districts, and business districts in some way. Perhaps they could colorfully paint the curbs to deliniate where the parking spots are and make parking more fun. Perhaps they could buy up old, run-down buildings and tear them down to create brightly lit, secure and free parking lots and garages.

Encouraging, instead of discouraging, parking near where people have to do business should allow the city (whatever city) to collect more sales tax revenue from the increased business conducted in that city. This would eliminate the need for meters, wouldn't it? It seems totally counter-productive to put up parking meters and hope people park one minute too long so you can write them a ten dollar ticket. The Country Club Plaza district in Kansas City is a good example of what I'm talking about here. They have clean, modern, parking garages interspersed throughout this upscale business district and it's booming. It has for many years.

When I got a ticket today...and I'm sure you've felt the same way...I was just pissed. It makes you feel like a criminal, even though you fed the meter like you were supposed to. I was 7 minutes over my time when the meter person wrote the ticket. 7 minutes! There should be a way for them to know if you actually fed the meter or not. If I had just parked without feeding the meter and flauted my responsibility, then got the ticket, I would expect to pay. But, I had parked in this very place many times before, put in my quarter for twenty minutes of time, and gotten back in plenty of time after doing my business. But not this time. So, of course, there's the ticket under the windshield wiper.

But, enough of my personal grievance. Parking meters are just not a good idea. From perspectives I mention above, and about any other angle I can think of. Parking meters, to me, signify a tired and outdated way for a city to raise money. It's an ancient idea that only punishes people for trying to do business in an otherwise fine municipality, wherever it might be. It's unfair (as in my case today). It's stupid. And it should be unconstitutional. We pay enough taxes in this country without having to be doubly taxed in the cities where we live in this ridiculous way.

I think I'll send a copy of this to my congressman. Maybe that constitutional amendment will be on next year's ballot.

No comments: