CARS HOMES JOBS

Council should let mayor set parking rates

Monday, June 24, 2013
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Parking fees in downtown Schenectady have always been controversial, and the current plan to put the mayor in charge of setting fees hasn’t failed to raise the hackles of at least some people who insist that the mayor shouldn’t wield so much power. Please.

We don’t enjoy shelling out for parking — whether it’s 25 cents for 15 minutes, $1 for an hour, or $5 or $10 for an evening event — any more than anyone else. But people who long for the days when parking in downtown Schenectady was free need to realize we’re in the 21st century: Real estate like the lot the city’s parking garage sits on is too valuable to give away, street meters protect that investment by preventing freeloading, and administering a fair parking program (one that keeps workers from taking up prime commercial-zone spaces all day) costs money.

Charging motorists is a way to cover the costs (think user fee) and/or raise money from people who avail themselves of the service, including from nonresidents who don’t pay city taxes.

Now that the city in the process of modernizing its parking meter system with the installation of voucher kiosks, the idea of ceding rate-setting authority to the mayor or his designee — instead of the City Council — makes some sense. It allows for easy flexibility when it comes to adjusting rates for demand, where requiring council approval would be too cumbersome.

With the mayor solely responsible, people will certainly know whom to complain to if they think rates are unreasonable. And with that threat constantly hanging over his head, how likely would the mayor be to abuse his authority?

Indeed, Mayor Gary McCarthy says he doesn’t anticipate raising rates beyond the current $1-an-hour downtown benchmark, or using the system as a way to generate income for the city. It’s true that some additional revenue will be realized as people will no longer be able to take advantage of unused time left in meters by departed motorists. But if that’s the extent of it, motorists really shouldn’t do much complaining. And if it’s not, they’ll certainly know who to blame.

 
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June 24, 2013
9:15 a.m.
dagiacalone says...

Let me see if I understand your "reasoning": Because an issue is controversial and important to many city residents, it is a GOOD thing for the City Council to duck the responsibility to make tough choices and hand the issue over to the Mayor, or for the Mayor to pass the responsibility over to a City employee like the City Engineer? Imagine all the other issues the Council could shirk because they are controversial -- in the name of giving the public just one target to shoot at if they disagree.

As you know, the Mayor and City Engineer have already told the Council they want $1 per hour to be the citywide rate. I can understand the Council members wanting to avoid the heat, but making these decisions is their job. And our system is set up so that the public can focus on particular proposed bills one at a time before they happen, in order to help the fact-finding legislative body make better decisions.

Beyond the citywide rate increase that will surely come, Schenectady has never charged for evening or weekend/holiday use of parking meters. The Mayor clearly intends to change that policy, as he talks about special rates for special events, virtually none of which take place during Monday-Friday business hours. Is that just a minor administrative decision that the City Engineer should be able to change, or an important policy on how to treat city residents and visitors and encourage more shoppers and event-goers?

Saving on unused meter minutes is of little importance compared to scaring away many potential shoppers. And, don't forget that the kiosk system will let a driver take his extra minutes with him to another downtown location, where he won't have to pay at all for the spot, and where he can undermine the short-term limits meant to force the turnover of spots.

It is strange indeed that the City and County and Metroplex try so very hard to bring in new businesses (giving tax breaks and often ignoring our zoning laws) but the City Council doesn't mind if the Mayor drives away (punishes) customers with rate increases, or if the current free lots are over-run and unavailable for cost-conscious shoppers or people who have no choice but to come downtown to use government services.

It is even stranger perhaps that the Gazette editorial board would want to let a City Council, so often derided for being merely a Rubber Stamp for the Mayor, to simply hand the stamp back to Mayor so it won't have to get any of that ink on its fingers when the rates quadruple and perhaps extend to 24/7 coverage.

I can't wait to see how you next apply this concept -- especially given your touching willingness to believe the assurances and revenue-estimates of the Mayor.

June 24, 2013
10:09 a.m.
hodgkins.t says...

Oversight of revenue is a legislative function. The US Constitution provides for this at the national level: "All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives..The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States;"
To have proper checks and balances in our republic it is necessary that the legislatures do their job and exercise oversight over revenues. If the Schenectady City Council chooses to relinquish their responsibilities for revenue oversight they should relinquish their seats.

June 24, 2013
6:02 p.m.
justapto says...

All states are now advertising their new slogan "lower taxes and decreased government'. When will we stop accepting this 'tax and spend' agenda that is state and municipality wide???
Consolidate, merge, cut and slash at every level.
No more taking from the working class and giving to those who are doing well or who refuse to work and contribute.
I am tired of supporting welfare, corporations, drunks, drug addicts and thieves. Enough already!!!!!

June 24, 2013
6:10 p.m.
justapto says...

I cant believe that the down town business district or Metroplex endorses this absurd grab at additional revenue.
Who doesn't remember the fiasco of the 1980s when Rotterdam Mall was fighting Schenectady? Nothing has changed since. Time to vote all these 'give away the store' Liberals!
I want Schenectady to finally come back.
This is NOT the way to compete.

June 26, 2013
9:12 a.m.
gina99 says...

Small business people don't support this. Metroplex businesses have separate free off street parking. Another idiotic revenue generating idea from the City Democrats that are throwing over 800 families into the street on tax liens. At what point are the progressive going to speak up against the regressive Metroplex sales tax to support rich developers? Schenectady County can never come back until Democratic reign of terror ends. The County is also headed towards bankruptcy with Democrats voting to triple the Cuomo tax cap.

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