I recently wrote another guest editorial for The Greenville News. This time, instead of printing it just as I wrote it, they butchered it down and ran it as a letter to the editor. As is all too common, their selective editing removed the larger context of the piece.
Here’s their version: Letter: Downtown wants you for 120 minutes The full piece is below.
The City Asks Us to Spend Our Money Downtown (And Then Promptly Leave)
There’s been a lively discussion over the past few years as to whether the city should install parking meters on downtown streets to raise revenue. After much debate, the city took the right stance by letting downtown businesses compete on a level playing field with other retail destinations in the area by not charging visitors to park their cars. The parking situation seems to work quite well. Most street spaces allow visitors to park for two hours. Setting and enforcing this reasonable time limit means that parking spaces will consistently open up throughout the day and violators will face a citation for failing to move their cars. If this deterrent wasn’t enforced, downtown workers would monopolize all available parking and retail revenue would diminish. If everyone plays by the rules, everyone wins.
Imagine my surprise when I recently went to move my car and spotted that unnerving orange envelope beneath my wiper blade. It had been less than an hour since I last moved my car, so I curiously opened the citation and read the charge; “Maneuvering to avoid citation.” Then, as if to cut through the convoluted ‘legalese,’ the violation appeared a second time in plain English. “Moving to avoid citation.” That cleared thing up. Then came the kicker – the fine amount was $30. If anything was convoluted about the citation, it was the logic behind it.
Let’s put this in perspective. If you display a blatant disregard for the law and refuse to move your car after two hours, thereby depriving your neighbors of a public parking space, the fine amounts to $8. If you refuse to move your car after another two hours, it’s another $8. If you left your car in a downtown parking spot all night, the entire next day, and up until 11:00 am the next morning, you would only run up a total bill of $32. But if you’re going to spend your valuable time and money in the area for more than two hours, and you move your car to avoid getting a ticket, the bill will come to $30.
What other citations does the city enforce that I don’t know about? I renew my license plate to avoid getting ticketed and towed. I regularly pay money for goods to avoid getting arrested for shoplifting. And I’ll even go so far as to admit that I use a designated driver to avoid getting a DUI conviction. In fact, I’m a repeat offender.
What does it matter how many hours I enjoy downtown Grenville as long as I move my car every two hours (and move it far enough to be obvious to parking enforcers)? Why does another person have more of a right to the city’s public parking spaces than I do? And why in the world is the fine for obeying the law more than three times the fine for breaking it? Are Greenville’s parking rules about generating turnover among parking spaces or generating an additional revenue stream? If it’s all about revenue, then bring back the parking meters. I’ll feed one all day.
The message the city is sending its local workers, residents and guests is this; you’re free to enjoy our unique parks, shops and restaurants, but that welcome ends at the 120-minute mark. I got the message. As a result, I’ll be spending my money out on Woodruff Road from now on.
After reading the heavily-edited version, one commenter wrote, “You’ve obviously never had to park in downtown DC, LA or NY. If you can find a spot for a mere $55, you’re in luck. Greenville is a piece of cake dude, so quit whining.”
“Obviously.” There’s a reason they say you should never assume anything.