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The Saratogian Newsroom blog, complete with thoughts and commentary from our newsroom staff and regular posts on happenings around town.

Tuesday, November 17

Leadership needed on paid parking

A couple house keeping notes:

1) I apologize that things have been a little stagnant around here lately. I was in a rush to leave the office Friday to catch a plane, and didn't have time to post, and then was off yesterday (to work on Saturday), hence nothing new since Thursday.

2) Readers leaving comments will notice that you will now be asked to complete a word verification "captcha" before your comment will be submitted for moderation. I apologize for the extra step, but I've been receiving a large number of spam comments recently, which I could do without. I'm hoping the word verification will cut down on them.

On to the regular business:

As you can read in the print edition, tonight's City Council kicked off with a public hearing on the proposed 2010 budget. Some of the comments focused on paid parking, which is being proposed to help close a $6.5 million revenue gap. There were quite a few reference to a Reader's View written by Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce President Joe Dalton and published in The Saratogian on Sunday.

While I cannot verify the accuracy of the numbers cited in Dalton's letter, I can tell you that many of the comments that came up on Tuesday, and which referenced the letter, spoke to the practicality of this whole business, and, I think, throw into question the city's ability to get paid parking in place by May 1, as proposed.

The comment that really got me thinking was offered by Kyle York, who pointed out that Commissioner of Finance Kenneth Ivins Jr. proposes a committee shape paid parking. The committee would include pertinent city departments, as well as the chamber, the Downtown Business Association, and the down town Special Assessment District.

We know that the DBA and Chamber are not excited (to put it mildly) about paid parking, while pretty much everyone in City Hall has agreed that it's a necessity. So, what we're going to wind up with is a committee discussing a project wanted by half of its membership, but not wanted by the other half. How this committee is going to arrive at a model that is going to be palatable to its entire membership, and that is going to allow the city to bring in the $1.35 million budgeted in 2010 is beyond me.

Over the years we've had lots of committees, and, in my experience, they often fail to reach resolutions on matters much less complicated than paid parking -- or, if they do succeed, it takes longer than five months. Maybe this time will be different?

Some have mentioned that a parking authority is needed to shape and manage paid parking in the city. I'm not sure that another layer of bureaucracy is what we need, but we do need a strong voice to come forward and put the Chamber and DBA in their place.

If paid parking is going to be a new source of revenue for the city (as seems a near-certainty), then I hope the paid parking committee will have a chairperson who will not be afraid to tell the Joe Daltons of the city that paid parking is coming, and remind them that their job is to make Saratoga Springs a premier destination in New York, both for business and pleasure, even if it costs some pocket change to park a car.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Paid parking is probably not the answer. It was very telling that Wilton has developed an entire development plan that looks to benefit from the incoming chip plant. What has the City done to entice/plan for people that are coming? It would be nice if the Council members and deputies would pay 10% of their insurance, they don't pay anything and haven't offered to. Of course the lowest level employees are paying 10%, but the budget problems are their fault anyway.

November 18, 2009 at 7:40 AM 
Blogger demroc said...

I don't know if you've ever seen the "life of Brian" by monty python, but it reminds me of the group in the movie that always needs to have a committee discussion before everything, and as a result never gets anything done. We need to have a committee discussion to discuss forming a committee.

November 18, 2009 at 7:42 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andrew: Paid parking will also have negative impacts on residents and people who work in Saratoga. Will everyone who works downtown have to pay now too? Or will they be seeking free parking on the many nearby residential streets, thereby displacing people who want to park near their homes? Many Saratogians do not have access to off street parking.

November 18, 2009 at 10:24 AM 
Anonymous Kyle York said...

Andrew-

You are incredibly and intuitively right about the flawed membership of our many Committees, especially those focused on Parking.

From recent years, you can find six studies of paid parking. The first five included Joe Dalton, often the author of the final report. When Joe was part of the review, the report was ALWAYS the same- "NO Parking, no WAY, no HOW."

Only the sixth and most recent Committee concluded that the time may be right to "further investigate" paid parking. THAT Committee was lead by Matt McCabe and Gordon Boyd. For the first time, Joe Dalton was not a member.

Long before this economic crisis, I started gathering research and CONTEMPORARY Case Studies of communities not unlike our "unique" City in the Country. I found the websites of the highly-respected experts AND the manufacturers of MODERN meters.

As a believer in Open Government, I shared the key websites with the Community and the Council... sites like www.parkingtoday.com.

In my research, I learned about an invaluable meeting in Denver, the "International Parking Institute's annual conference May 17-20." Serious INFORMATION...so serious that I wrote to ALL Council members on May 11 and volunteered to pay the airfare for one attendee from City Hall.

The Council never responded to me. The community never got to hear my 8 Case Studies, each including an analysis from a local government official, complete with before/after news stories.

Judging from today's news story, it looks as if I offered no ideas or news to the Council last night.

But while the Council can quietly hit the "mute" button when I rise to bloviate and babble, they listen to every word of Joe Dalton.

And in the best tradition of "Open Government," the Council absorbed Joe's wisdom and gave him their solemn, if somewhat secretive unbreakable vow. As Joe wrote--

"Now meters are being proposed to solve the city’s financial problems, and the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce board of directors unanimously opposes the plan. Promises made not to meter Broadway or to keep fees low are only good as long as the present council is in place."

While this new Council came into office with a lot of promise... the backroom Dalton Deal wasn't the kind of "promise" I had in mind.

-Kyle York
Citizen Blowhard, Finder of Facts

November 18, 2009 at 5:28 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Too bad the companies that manufacture parking control systems are not required to disclose what funds or gifts they have provided to city leaders.

My math skills may not be up to the level of 5th grader, dividing $1,350,000.00 by 365 days = $3698.00 per day. $3698.00/900 spots = $4.00 of paid parking per day per meter.

What if not every meter does not have revenue of $4.00 each and every day of the year? Would the the city would not get all the promised money? I'm sure the parking council leaders will get their promised money.

November 19, 2009 at 6:46 AM 

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