Downtown Salem, Oregon recently went from two-hour onstreet parking with the likelihood of parking meters being installed, to free unlimited parking -- thanks to a citizen petition that was adopted by the City Council after about 9,000 people signed it.
Check out Stop Parking Meters Downtown for an update on how the City of Salem is implementing the new parking policy. In short, not well, according to Carole Smith.
The petition the city council adopted on Oct 14th clearly required city enforcement to prevent prohibited parties from parking where they should not. The City Councilors pledged to “do everything in our power to make this successful” when they adopted the petition.
I am going to use the word “employees” to cover everyone not allowed to park on-street in the downtown parking distict. That includes downtown students, volunteers, business owners, jurors and employees.
I met with a former city employee this week and he told me “currently the city cannot issue any tickets to employees for illegally parking on-street because the city does not have the policy and programs in place to issue tickets the municipal court will up-hold.”
But the City used to. And could do so again, as Stop Parking Meters Downtown lays out.
In the past, the municipal judge would throw out employee parking tickets unless:
1. There were signs at the vehicular entrances to downtown notifying people they were entering the “Downtown Parking District.”
2. Proof all employees have been warned they will be ticketed if they park where they should not.
3. Proof that any employee being issued a $100 parking fine (or greater) must have been issued a warning first by an enforcement officer.
4. Employee warning tickets must contain a map of the district, clearly marking where employees can, and cannot park, the boundary of the district, and information on where the employee can purchase a parking permit.
5. There must be a data base available for enforcement officers to verify a vehicle belongs to an employee.
6. To issue a $100 ticket (or greater) the employee must be ticketed in their place of work, or be witnessed by the officer walking from their place of work to their vehicle. That way no employee is issued a ticket if they were downtown shopping.
Those are pretty simple things to put in place – especially since we had them all before.
The city used to send a form out to all downtown businesses in the Parking District every 6 months. The form required them to list all their current employees. There was a $250 fine for not submitting the names, or submitting false or misleading information. 95% of downtown businesses complied.
So if you're having trouble finding a parking space in downtown Salem, tell the City Council, Mayor, and City Manager they need to do a better job with enforcement. You can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org .
The Stop Parking Meters Downtown citizen initiative was adopted in its entirety by the City Councillors and Mayor. They didn't have to do this. The initiative sponsors preferred that Salemians be able to vote on the initiative in the May 2014 election.
But instead of letting voters decide whether unlimited free downtown parking was a good idea, the City of Salem said "Yes, it is! Let's go for it. Now!"
Which means, the City of Salem now owns the new parking policy. They wanted it; they got it. It's largely up to city officials to make it work.
This includes enforcing the ban on onstreet parking for the aforementioned people: downtown students, volunteers, business owners, jurors and employees. The Stop Parking Meters Downtown folks have been encouraging businesses to comply with the ban, but a legal stick is needed along with voluntary carrots.
Again, this is nothing new. The City has had a ban on employee parking for a long time. Enforcement got lax. Now it needs to be stepped up again.
This is the key point: the Salem City Council voted to adopt the citizen initiative in its entirety. No downtown parking meters. No downtown time limits. No employee parking. The Councillors and Mayor knew what they were voting on.
They said "yes."
And "we will make it work." Both by their words, and by their action. After all, what elected official would vote in favor of a new law, then try to make that law fail? This would be outrageous.
Unethical. Hypocritical. A dereliction of duty.
Obviously officials at the City of Salem want to enforce the new parking ordinance that was recently approved by the City Council. At least, this sure seems obvious. Hopefully the delay in vigorously enforcing the ban on employees, downtown students, and others from using onstreet spaces is just temporary.
The holiday shopping season is approaching. Businesses want to have as many spaces as possible available for downtown visitors. They're looking to the City of Salem to do its job, so they can do theirs.
Please listen to them, city officials, especially Councillor Chuck Bennett -- who represents the downtown area. He can be reached at email@example.com
Like I said before, if you're having problems finding a parking space downtown, remind Bennett and other city officials that they need to do a better job of enforcing their new parking ordinance.