Rather this is about process and once again, the council overruling a commissioned task force for no good policy reason.
Flash back for a second to December of 2012. The council had asked the WAC to sit down, evaluate expert reports and make recommendations. One of their recommendations was going to the Loge-Williams CBFR rate structure.
However, when it came back to the council, the council heard feedback from some in the community, including the chair of the WAC who was on the minority side of the vote on CBFR. Based more on fear than sound policy analysis, Mayor Pro Tem Dan Work balked on CBFR.
In fact, he refused a friendly amendment to even allow the WAC to reconsider CBFR. For reasons unbeknownst to us, two council members, who supported CBFR, acquiesced and the council unanimously approved going back to the WAC and having them reconsider the Bartle Wells rate structure.
However, the WAC proved to be much stronger in constitution than we might have thought and they came to the conclusion that they needed to still support CBFR. They reinforced their vote and the council this time did a watered down compromise of two years of Bartle Wells and three years of CBFR.
That could have proven costly to the city’s rate structure except that the plaintiffs in the case failed to utilize their true advantage and play Bartle Wells off of CBFR.
We raise the past because in many ways the parking issue is similar to what happened with CBFR and the WAC.
First of all, the council created the Downtown Parking Task Force for political cover. They did not need to go to a citizen group here. They had the staff to be able to make this kind of report to council without going the task force route. So why kick this to a task force? There is probably something to be said for getting the buy in from citizens on something controversial.
But, of course, if you are going to buck the task force on the only controversial component, why ask citizens to spend hours of time working on a task force?
It was clear from the start of the discussion that there were three votes that were not comfortable going forward with paid parking at this point in time.
Brett Lee pushed as hard as he possibly could. He noted numerous studies that actually show the hidden costs of unpaid parking. But he was unable to sway a third vote on this issue, despite his repeated urgings to support the 19 recommendations as a package.
One of the things we have heard from the start is that the recommendations will not work in isolation. And the paid parking component is critical to at least three parts of the other recommendations.
First, if you believe part of the parking problem is that employees of downtown businesses are using street side parking and moving their cars every two hours, there is no effective way to get them away from that practice without paid parking.
Second, if you believe that the parking problem is a distribution rather than a supply problem, then you end up needing paid parking to encourage long-term parkers to move their cars to the garages rather than the street.
Finally, even if you believe that the problem is one of supply, without paid parking there is no funding mechanism for a new parking garage.
Brett Lee was willing to be cautious. He argued that this item was quite different from the POU issue where the council did not have a study of the impacts. Here he cited numerous studies and even offered a block-by-block roll out in which the city would be able to study the impacts along the way, and that would create a validation program that would allow money to be generated for businesses.
So you have Lucas Frerichs arguing that paid parking would have adverse impacts, Dan Wolk who believed that the parking problem is the result of something positive, and Rochelle Swanson stating that she needed more information.
Given all of that, perhaps the council should have delayed the vote to look at this more because, while Councilmember Frerichs would argue that a lot of the recommendations could be done in short order, it is not clear how helpful any would be without the stick approach to compel people to change their parking behavior.
Once it was clear that paid parking lacked the votes, Mayor Joe Krovoza stated that, in the interest of time, he would be willing to support the rest of the proposals and, indeed, ultimately Councilmember Lee went there as well.
This is almost the identical pattern from December 2012 that led not to the best policy outcome. For reasons that still baffle observers, the council is rarely willing to take a 3-2 vote. What would be wrong with Major Krovoza and Councilmember Brett Lee dissenting here and voting no?
From our vantage point this consensus process creates the illusion of consensus but buries important policy differences. Early in the council, as the council wanted to establish rapport and signal changes from their previous councils, okay, we get it. But now when two council members are duking it out for an Assembly seat?
The truth is that this council has shown a strange willingness to buck both the expertise of city staff as well as the hard work done by citizen groups, and it is unclear why they have chosen to do so.
From our standpoint, if the council majority were unsure about paid parking, then they needed to wait here. What they have put forward, without an incentive mechanism to push people to off-street parking and without a funding mechanism to build new parking, does little to solve the parking problem.
—David M. Greenwald