According to a KELO-TV report on January 26th, the city has expanded the hours they are charging customers. Customers used to pay to park in the ramp between 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. With the new automated upgrades to the 1st Avenue Ramp, the city expanded the hours they are charging customers to park from 8 a.m. to 6 a.m.
Isn't it interesting that the public finds out about the expanded hours for charging customers to park in the main downtown parking ramp through a local TV station? With all the press releases coming out of City Hall, you would have thought there would have been a new release telling the public of the new parking policy.
I wanted to see when the Public Parking Advisory Board passed this new policy so I went to the city's official website and looked for the minutes to the board meetings. The Community Development section lists the Public Parking Advisory Board and it states monthly meetings are scheduled the first Tuesday of the month at 8 a.m. at Carnegie Town Hall at 235 West Tenth Street.
The Board met nine times in 2009 and 12 times in 2010. It met consistently every month in 2011 through October 4, 2011, except for September when the meeting was cancelled. There are no meetings or minutes listed after the October 4, 2011 meeting. In the upcoming meeting dates section it says: Next meeting date(s) unavailable at this time. Please check back later....
In checking the meeting minutes listed on the website, there is nothing in the posted minutes regarding the advisory board approving the expanded hours to charge for parking in the 1st Avenue Ramp. So, what is the reason for this new policy? Is it to offset revenue shortfalls in the parking system? I thought the hourly parking fees didn't raise significant revenues and weren't something to be concerned about.
Back in December 2011, when the new automated parking system was still not operating and hourly customers were parking for free, City Director Darrin Smith said, "We wanted to make sure that, especially in
the month of December that customers Downtown go shopping, visiting Downtown was
as convenient as possible for them so we've allowed them to park in the ramp." He went on to say that the hourly parking only brought in $50 a day so the implication was it was not a big enough deal to worry about.
If hourly parking fees were not a big deal back in November and December and brought insignificant revenue, why expand the hours for hourly parking to include nighttime hours now? It is a negative increase against Downtown activity in the evening. Will free parking continue on the weekends or is this new policy of charging between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 a.m. seven days a week?
Did this new policy get reviewed by the Public Parking Advisory Board? It appears not since this Board has not met since October 2011. Where is the transparency in policy decisions promised by this mayor. This new parking policy affects the Downtown. Were the Downtown merchants told of this new policy change so they could respond to questions by their customers and patrons?
This is not a very good example of business acumen, Mr. Mayor! An explanation by the director responsible for public parking and oversight of the Public Parking Advisory Board and its inaction of late seems to be in order. This whole thing seems very strange and certainly does not appear to be an example of being Pro-Downtown as this Mayor professes!