Parking entitlement couterproductiveExamine the tax situation of the resident who requires city-provided free parking in front of his home. Presumably he has not gone to the expense of providing his own off-street parking or garage space like most residents have. He has no cost to maintain those spaces, and no labor required in removing snow.
It’s been said that social security is the third rail of American politics - touch it, and you’re dead. Social security appears to be the unquestioned entitlement, the epitome of government services that we have convinced ourselves we deserve.
But that is national politics, and on a local level we’ve got our own entitlement, government sponsored free on-street parking. As evidence, I’ll offer exhibits A, B, and C, presented at the November 28th city council meeting, in which parking around the new East High School was discussed.
As background, take note that a number of East students choose to drive to school but do not park on campus. To “protect” the neighborhood, the city has established a resident permit parking zone around East, so that residents are not subjected to student vehicles on their streets. The parking permits cost $5 per year.
And now for exhibits A, B, and C.
Exhibit A, presented by Laurie Korich: “We pay for (parking) stickers. That is totally wrong.”
Exhibit B, presented by Byron Johnson: “To force us to buy permits for ourselves and our guest is not right.”
Exhibit C, from city councilor Jeff Anderson: I “disagree with the fact that we’re charging people to park in their own neighborhood.”
There could have been exhibits D, E, and F. Apparently, if you’re a single family homeowner in Duluth, the city has a duty to provide you with a free subsidized parking space in front of your house, along with plowing and maintenance.
Byron Johnson explained his antipathy to parking permits by telling the council that residents in the area of East already pay property taxes, and that argument seems like a good one at first glance. But first glance is not an accurate assessment of the situation.
Instead, examine the tax situation of the resident who requires city-provided free parking in front of his home. Presumably he has not gone to the expense of providing his own off-street parking or garage space like most residents have. He has no cost to maintain those spaces, and no labor required in removing snow. Just as importantly, he pays no taxes on his nonexistent parking spaces or garage.
Resident Don Michels summarized the situation outside that November 28th meeting, saying that he pays taxes on his garage and labors to remove snow, while his taxes pay for someone else’s “free” on-street parking and snow clearing.
The subsidies for “free” on-street parking don’t end there, though. As one example, the city spends extra money to clear streets of snow twice, instead of just once, after a storm because streets can’t be plowed full width with cars parked on them. Meanwhile, those that provide their own parking have the privilege of shoveling the mound of crusted snow at the end of their driveway twice, instead of just once.
Of course, it’s impractical to provide driveways and garages on some Duluth properties, and often times people have good reason for wanting to park alongside streets. So it’s good policy for the city to allow for on-street parking. But it’s also good policy that those who do not provide for their own parking should pay more taxes and fees, not less, than their neighbors, and if those fees reflected the true cost of a parking space, they would be far more than $5.
Residents like Michels, who understand that a small fee to guarantee subsidized parking in front of one’s home is a bargain, seem to be very rare. That statement also applies to some city councilors, who, like councilor Anderson, seem pained at the $5 administrative fee.
Those councilors should get over their discomfort. Instead, they should concern themselves with the large body of city policy, such as the city’s rental ordinances and resident permit parking zones, which revolves around maintaining “free” subsidized parking for certain residents, while requiring other residents (like parents of students) to pay for it.
Lastly, councilors should consider the possibility that the problem around East is not that parking is too expensive, but that it is too cheap. Charge a fairer $60 annual fee for on-street parking around East, or anywhere in the city with parking issues, and most parking problems will magically go away.