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 district.  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”.

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.

Now the city manager has sent out a letter, and in the text of the letter, she asks downtown businesses to send her a list of their employee’s names and license plate numbers. . ..  license plate numbers are NOT required in the code (SRC 102.050 (b) if you want to check it).
In the past, once the city has a list of all downtown employees, they cross referenced the list with DMV records and recorded the license plate numbers of any vehicle registered to that name.

It sounds like a lot of work, but they only did it twice a year and 90% of employees names remained the same, so they only had to cross reference the new names.  That way, the city had a list of all vehicles an employee might park downtown, not just the car they drive most often.

Christmas shopping season starts today.  At the rate the city is working they won’t be able to provide enforcement during the Christmas shopping season.  This will damage downtown businesses.  It seems the City is doing all they can to undermine what they pledged to do when they adopted the initiative petition on Oct 14th.     The writing is on the wall.   Chuck Bennett even wrote “you got what you wanted”. . . .   No we didn’t.


Posted Sept 12


 As of Sept 4th, we have enough signatures to get on the May ballot!   But wait, now the city council is considering adopting the petition without a vote of the public.  If they do that – they can also change the language and intent of the petition to whatever they want, whenever they want.

The City Council has until their Oct 14th meeting to decide whether or not to voluntarily adopt the petition.  Council adoption would undermine the democratic process and allow Council to change anything.

If you do not want the City Council to adopt the petition – ask them to put it on the ballot in May.  Here are some talking points if you want to use them:

If Salem City council adopts our petition, it will NOT go on the ballot in May for us to vote on.  If council voluntarily adopts the petition, they can vote to change it whenever they want, for whatever reason they want.  If this goes to a vote of the people, history shows us – no council will touch it for years.  We want, and need, that long-term protection.   

1.  We didn’t collect 9,000 signatures so City Council could adopt our petition – respect our hard work and the democratic process – let this go to a vote of the public.
2.  Doing a parking preference survey of downtown businesses leaves out the voice of downtown customers.   They signed the petition too and want a voice. Send it to the May ballot so everyone can have a equal say.
3.  Before council even decided whether to adopt the petition or not, councilors are already discussing how they might change the petition language.  Discussions like that erode our trust in city council’s commitment to adopt the petition as written.  If they are not going to adopt it as written, they shouldn’t adopt it.
4. Ask the Mayor and City Council to commit to doing everything possible to make the initiative petition work as written.   Adopt a method for successful ticketing, and measuring how many employees are issued $100 + parking tickets.  Make this information available to the public so we can see the Councilor’s commitment to making this work.  If the Council cannot commit to that level of service, send the initiative petition to the voters.
5.  Stop saying parking downtown is free.  Downtown businesses pay a combined $435,000 annual tax to keep it free for customers.  That is NOT free.  City Councilors are misleading the public each time they make that remark.
6.  Let the Council/Mayor know citizen eyes will be watching every aspect of how the initiative petition is implemented, and efforts to undermine it will be recognized, fought, and publicized vigorously during the May city council/Mayoral election.
7.  City Council and the Mayor have known about the petition for 4 months, and continue to act as if it’s business as usual.   This just shows how out of sync council/Mayor are with the downtown community and citizen’s desires.  It was the citizens who elected you, listen to, and respect them.
8.  Bottom line, Council – implement the initiative if you are honestly committed to making it work; reject it otherwise. Don’t play the annoying political game of pretending to follow the will of the people by adopting the measure, then seek to undermine and ultimately kill it.
Our petition was filed with the city recorder, and reviewed by the city attorney, in May.  Council members have known the exact language of the petition for 4 months but have continually voted to proceed toward installing meters downtown.   Taking action now is highly suspicious.  If they are truly committed to the initiative petition, they would have stopped voting for meters months ago.

To provide testimony send your email to:  Kathy Hall, City Recorder khall@cityofsalem.net by Oct 9th – add “testimony for Oct 14th council meeting” in your subject line.

What problem is being solved with meters?  

There are two problems downtown needs to solve:  

1.) The City believes is has a revenue problem because the $1.4 million annual parking garage income is not enough to pay for maintenance of the three downtown garages.  The City wants $700,000 more a year.

2.)  Too many part-time employees are parking on-street because they cannot afford to pay $50 – $60 a month to park in the garages.

Can the city increase revenue other ways?

Yes, there are ways the city could increase revenue in their garages and get employees off the street – without parking meters.  The most popular idea is to charge $1 a day to use the downtown garages -this would solve both problems.

Making parking affordable for employees to park in the garages would free up spaces on-street for you, our customers, and increase the city’s parking garage income by half a million a year.

Employees WANT to park in the garages, but cannot afford it.  Many of our customers WANT to park on-street, but its full of employees.  Penneys, Nordstrom, and Kohls could validate the $1 fee if they choose –  their customers would pay nothing to parking in the garages.

The important thing to remember is, this is NOT a parking problem.  Don’t get drug down into solving a  problem we don’t have – it’s a revenue problem disguised behind a smoke screen of parking.

Whats the next step after parking meters?

The city has offered to sell the parking garages in the past.  No one would buy them as long as we have free parking on-street.   Once the garages are sold- they will have parking meters also.

The three downtown parking garages are a public asset, like our city parks, our library, fire and police stations – we should never sell them.  They should make money for the city, but the way the city manages them, they won’t.

How can we have free, unlimited time parking downtown?

Downtown Salem had a highly successful free, unlimited time parking program for 35 years – until the city broke it when they stopped enforcing employees from using on-street parking.

The City has allowed employees to park on-street to increase parking congestion so they could justify adding 2 hour parking limits.  Even with so many employees parking on-street the statistics still didn’t justify 2 hour parking.  The city then adjusted the survey area to just 6 of the 26 downtown blocks and then, for one hour, parking occupancy tipped over 85% usage- 2 hour limits went in.

It has always been illegal for any employee, volunteer, student or business owner to parking on-street since 1976 – and it is still illegal today-the city just needs to enforce their own ordinances.

Has 2 hour parking worked?

The Citys parking consultant has shown, parking occupancy and turnover have not improved with 2 hour parking.  Today there are less customer parking spaces available than there were in 2006 – before 2 hour limits were implemented. No improvement.

The City Manager told the downtown that our customers who wanted to shop longer than 2 hours would use the garages.  The consultants measurement of garage use went DOWN after 2 hour limits were implemented.   That means – not only did our customers not use the garages, but our employees began leaking out onto the street. . . .

Enforcement of 2 hour parking cost $110,000 more than ticket revenue last year.  Two hour parking has failed on all measurable levels but that has not caused the City to hesitate making an unsuccessful program even worse by adding meters.

Do you have confidence in the City’s solution?

The City terminated the Salem Downtown Partnership in April 2013 to prevent any organized opposition to installing parking meters downtown.

The City took the same tactic in 2004 when it also terminated the Salem Downtown Association – the year before 2 hour parking went in. . .

The City Manager reported she terminated the Salem Downtown Partnership because she had “lost confidence”.  If that is a valid reason to terminate an organization – watch out city, many people may be questioning their “confidence” in your parking management practices right now.

What can I do?

Vote in the May 2014 Primary election.  Tell the city you are tired of their hidden fees on your sewer bill, increased costs, and doubling the parking meter charge around the capitol.   Be honest about solving your financial problem so we can help you and respect your decisions.

This entry was posted in Downtown Salem Parking and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to

  1. Curt says:

    Wow. Rick Williams identified the 789 spaces downtown where utilization exceeds 90%, not the city. Rick Williams recommended metering these 789 spaces, not the city. Rick Williams is the same consultant you hired. You cherry-pick the data, misrepresent his findings, and dismiss his recommendations.

    Those “hidden fees on your sewer bill” is a storm water fee and its one of the few sustainable policies we have in this city. It dramatically increased the cost of parking for the strip malls that downtown supposedly needs “free” parking to compete with. But you shit on that too in order to score cheap political points and push the discussion deeper into the gutter.

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