Traverse City Record-Eagle

May 24, 2013

Editorial: Fairness in enforcement must apply to meters

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — Parents are told that when enforcing the rules, consistency counts. A lot.

You can’t let the kids eat mud one day but ignore it the next. Flinging cereal at the siblings can’t be prohibited just on Mondays.

So it should be with parking meters. They are there to be fed — for good reasons — but the city can’t ignore enforcement for weeks or months at a time and then decide that today is a good day to start handing out $10 greeting cards.

Those who parked along East Front Street last Saturday morning found out the hard way that the city decided its parking ordinance, which calls for meters to be fed from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, was going to be enforced. On Saturdays. From now on. Or at least until it isn’t.

To be fair, the city isn’t trying to hide anything; it has just been terribly inconsistent. Parking Administrator Dave Malewitz said drivers will see increased enforcement of the city’s 1,600 parking meters — including on Saturdays — now that the Downtown Development Authority has hired two “parking ambassadors” to issue tickets and beef up the city’s regular meter enforcement squad.

Previously, limited staff had meant limited enforcement, he said. That’s honest. But it doesn’t excuse the on-again, off-again doling out of $10 fines.

Barb Meredith said she often visits the Green House Cafe on Saturday mornings, and last Saturday stopped by the Farmer’s Market after breakfast. When she got back to her car she found it was one of 10 or more on East Front sporting parking tickets.

Meredith said she has no problem paying the ticket, but said she had become accustomed to the city’s almost non-existent Saturday parking meter enforcement.

Meters make money for the city but also prevent drivers from parking in front of local businesses for hours at a time and denying would-be customers a place to park.

The thing about laws, however — even parking ordinances — is that they must be enforced evenly and consistently to be fair and encourage respect.

The city took in $600,000 in parking fees last year; while much of that is from the city’s two parking decks, a lot is from meters. While drivers may not like it, the city might consider spending some of that to make enforcement more consistent.

Consistency counts, and if the city has to spend a bit more to get it, so be it.