Fair and Friendly Parking
Last week Wednesday (February 15th) several of us attended the Kingston Finance Committee Meeting, which was an eye-opening experience into how things do, or do not, get done on a local level. Several of the Kingston city Aldermen were clearly uninterested, perhaps even deaf, to the discussion we’ve asked to take place about the implementation of parking kiosks in the municipal lots. There was to be no meaningful nor cooperative discussion about the proposed parking changes. No, their decision had been made. In fact it had been made, or according to Jim Noble, should have been made, back when the budget was approved.
Our position has always been that we want Fair and Friendly parking and that those who agree with that position were not made aware of the proposed changes before the budget was passed, nor given adequate time to build their position in opposition to the changes. We felt there were voices missing to this very important discussion and worked hard to raise awareness so that all could be heard. Not all of us working for Fair and Friendly parking are going to be hit the same economically. For some, it is not a burden, but for many it will be. We volunteered our time to create awareness of the issues so that more voices could be heard. We created a website, a petition, flyered vehicles, canvassed the community, spoke with business owners, employees and visitors of Kingston and in less than a week, we had over 900 people who’d signed our petition pleading with the City to reconsider the proposed parking changes. At last month’s Common Council meeting there were over two dozen concerned citizens who spoke against the proposed parking changes with not one person present speaking in favor of them.
Despite the pleas of concerned citizens to consider some creative alternatives to the parking problems in Kingston, several members of the Common Council have taken the position that they know best, that they don’t need to listen to the constituents, that what’s done is done and everyone else should be quiet, including their fellow council members who DO want to listen, to learn, to communicate and to cooperate.
Alderwomen Nina Dawson, Deborah Brown and Mary Ann Mills all took the time to read and listen to our presentations. They heard our concerns and reached out to community members most affected by the proposed changes. Put simply, they did their job as public servants representing the interests of the people. These three Alderwomen did research after the public raised its concerns. They looked into the details of the budget and whether or not the kiosk plan was actually going to help balance it. They looked into the questions raised about why this may not be in the best interest of the city, why some are going to be hit hard by the changes and whether or not this will actually solve the city’s parking problems. They questioned the argument that the kiosks are needed to collect data, pointing out the most logical way to collect data would be to create a survey, not spend $125,000 to collect license plate information. They spoke with constituents in the area and how they might be affected by the proposed changes, and they learned that a good number of employees from the Hospital, Family of Woodstock and the County regularly use municipal lots as they have nowhere else to park. They asked questions about other parking systems that may not cost as much as the kiosks and whether or not this was the best vendor for the parking kiosks.
An outraged Tony Davis did spend time reviewing budgets and numbers to proclaim his disgust at the fact that taxpayer money had been spent to update the parking lots uptown. Mr. Davis seems to have forgotten that the meters and parking violations have been collecting over $400,000 per year since they were implemented and that all of that money has gone into the general fund. So in other words, the taxpayers didn’t have to pay for the lots; the long overdue upkeep came from revenue generated by the parking system. It’s also important to note that of the $688,989 they are projecting to collect in parking fees and violations, post expenses, a mere $100,000 will go towards the maintenance and $588,989 will go to the general fund.
Of major concern is that clearly none of this had been discussed prior to last week’s finance meeting. Where is the due diligence in the process? We trust representatives to be acting in the best interests of the community, and that means, do your research. Research several options, listen to the voices of the community, and engage in a dialogue to ensure you are making the best decision and for the right reasons. Don’t decide in a vacuum that you know what’s best for others. Don’t put the burden of balancing a budget on those who already pay more than their fair share. Don’t be unwilling to listen to others’ creative ideas. While it’s reassuring that the three Alderwomen did hear our voices and were willing to listen and question some of the assumptions being made about the proposed solutions to parking, it’s disheartening to know that we never stood a chance with several others and that no matter how innovative and inclusive our ideas or those of others may be, or how they may improve the overall economy and growth of Kingston, a majority of the Alderman will not hear us.
We haven’t given up yet, we are working with members of the Midtown and Rondout Business and Arts communities to make sure every voice is heard. Alderwoman Nina Dawson is holding a public meeting on Tuesday evening (February 21st) at 6:30pm at the Kingston Library. On the agenda is a discussion of the parking kiosks. We invite all who are interested to come and raise their voice. We will be there. We’ll be in attendance at the Common Council meeting for the 3rd time next month when this issue will once again be presented for a vote. We’ll be involved with the Parking Work Group despite the fact that its hands will likely be tied by a decision to purchase and implement parking kiosks before the group even has a chance to meet. For all of you who want Fair and Friendly parking, we invite you to join us tomorrow evening at the library and once again for the Common Council meeting!