Opinion Articles

Top Bend Parking Violators?  Some buisness owners.  (Bend Bulletin Feb 22, 2014)

Editorial – Mayor Accents Salem’s Ups and Downs  (Statesman Journal 2-10-14)

Whose to blame for downtowns parking problems  (Statesman Poll 2-20-14)

Downtown Parking Check Up – are new rules making the grade?  Sunday, February 16, 2014 Statesman Journal

Downtown Businesses Frustrated by Lack of City Communication  January 2014 Salem Weekly Newspaper

Its not just a spot to put your car, its an expression of whether your city cares. ( January 2014  Salem Weekly Newspaper  www.willamettelive.com)

Is the City of Salem trying to screw up Downtown Parking?  (Dec 30, 2013 from Brian Hines blog www.hinessight.blogs.com)

Should Salem City Manager be known as Exhalted Emperor Linda Norris?  (November 12, 2013 from Brian Hines blog www.hinessight.blogs.com)

Dave Moss wrote this opinion column for Salem Monthly:

One almost has to wonder whether any members of the Salem City Council or City staff have even read the Salem Comprehensive Plan, with its policies, goals, and objectives to create a strong community.  One of the core tenets of the Plan is support for a healthy, vibrant and thriving downtown core, to provide a central area for the community to build around.  Culture, history and social interaction all work best with a strong community core.

Yet now comes a proposal for installing parking meters throughout the downtown.  Not to manage overcrowded parking; not to support local businesses; and not to support a strong downtown.  No, the proposal is driven solely by the desire on the part of city government to get more money.  And, who will really pay the price for these meters?  The small locally-owned storefront businesses which are essential to the vitality and diversity of the downtown.  Who will win? The City of Salem treasury and the national chain stores in the malls attached to the garages.

According to the City staff report, there is expected to be at least 20% “leakage” in the downtown customer base after the meters are installed.  Leakage!  What that euphemism means is there will be a LOSS of at least 20% of the customer base, and an accompanying LOSS of 20% of the business revenues.  Which small storefront businesses want to see that happen?  Would the City like a 20% hit imposed on its treasury?  I happened to be chair of the Salem Citizens Budget Committee the year Measure Five passed.  The effect was significantly less than 20% but you would have thought the end of the world was near to listen to the City at the time.  I think the fallout of a 20% “leakage” will be dramatic and probably permanent.

The proposal for downtown parking meters is wrongheaded and unnecessary.  Meters should be used to manage parking when space is limited and demand is high.  That condition does not apply in downtown Salem.  The common threshold to begin considering meters is when the area reaches 85% occupancy in available parking spaces.  The 26 block Downtown Parking District does not come close to 85% occupancy.  At the height of use from noon to 2:00pm, it creeps up to 75% but no higher for street parking.  Occupancy in garages and off-street lots gets close to 50%.  Not to be deterred by these facts, however, the staff cooked the figures a bit.  By limiting the occupancy statistics to only six of the 26 blocks, the occupancy just squeaks over the threshold at 87% between 1:00pm and 2:00pm.  Such a deceptive and dishonest use of statistics is hardly a mandate for meters.

So, what to do?  First of all, allow public comment and ideas to percolate into the process BEFORE deciding the solution.  The City excluded the public this time around.

Second, define the real need clearly and pursue relevant solutions.  The City need is to address deferred maintenance in the garages.  The meter proposal makes street use pay for the garages, and makes the small businesses dependent on the street parking pay for the parking problems in the garages associated with the national chains in the malls.  There are far better and more relevant solutions.  A simple $1/day garage fee would generate far more revenue than the meterproposal, attracting downtown employees who currently are dodging street tickets.  Using leasehold profits to support the entire garage structure would help.  Using a more cost-effective enforcement method would help — current enforcement costs $100,000 more than the ticket revenue it generates.

And stop siphoning off a quarter million a year for garage security that is somehow not necessary in the Pringle and Library garages.  (As an aside of garage security: when the conference center was under construction, three of us stood on the top level of the Liberty Square garage to watch for 10 minutes.  The City security guard came along and threatened us with tickets for loitering if we didn’t leave immediately.)

Downtown parking meters are the wrong answer for the wrong problem for the wrong reasons.  Let’s shine a little light on the problem and not rush to cripple and/or destroy the small locally-owned storefront businesses that make Salem’s downtown lively and interesting.

Dave Moss is a former Salem City Council member and has been involved in civic affairs since the beginnings of the downtown renewal in the 1970s

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