Hippo Manchester
December 15, 2005

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Publisher's Note: Killing the goose
by Jody Reese

Itís true there are those who will call me a one-trick pony, but I feel so strongly that city government meddling in downtown parking will be disastrous that I must get back on the pony and ride it until the issue is dead.

The finance department paid $120,000 for a group of consultants from East Lansing, Mich., to suggest that Manchester hire more consultants, and thatís just how the consultantsí recommendation begins.

I have argued that tax cuts are bad for Manchester and that city government does a pretty good job of spending our money. On the whole, we get a pretty decent city government for the money. Of course, we can and must do better with what we already spend, especially in regard to the schools, crime, parking and snow removal.

However, this parking study makes this city government look greedy and uncaring toward its residents and everyone who works hard every day to earn a living downtown. If the city were to pass these recommendations, Manchester just might dry up and blow away.

For starters, the study suggests that parking become part of the finance department, making the primary aim of parking control making money for the city. To make sure that enough money is collected, a parking manager would be hired; however, to afford that manager the consultants suggest raising vehicle registration fees. In addition to hiring more parking staff, rates would be raised from $.25 per half hour to $.60, and meter hours would be changed from the current Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., to seven days a week, with meters going from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Of course that means parishioners at St. Josephís Cathedral, Grace Episcopal and First Congregational would have to plug the meters on Sunday. The consultants would also raise monthly parking rates from $65-$75 per month to $100.

Early in the report Lansing Melbourne Group, the consulting group, set out the goal of its plan as economic development, but the plan couldnít be further away from that target. Extending the meter times will discourage people from coming downtown. They will choose to visit chain restaurants on South Willow Street or stay home.

As it is, many of the downtown businesses are just hanging on. They are not chains with vast amounts of money, but small business with little money to make up for the tough times. The goal of any parking plan should be to help these businesses, not gouge their customers.

The aldermen need to stand firm against this plan and ask Lansing Melbourne Group for a refund.