This week’s edition of your favorite newspaper will be in subscribers’ hands after this week’s Platteville Common Council meeting.
However, some readers cannot wait and purchase theirs from their favorite stores Tuesday afternoon.
In the hope that the latter group includes some members of the Common Council who read the paper before the council meeting, I have a message for them as they vote on instituting parking space rentals this week and no doubt other parking changes later:
Since I’ve started at The Journal, hardly a Common Council meeting has been held without a discussion on parking generally and downtown parking specifically, usually with votes affecting both.
There has not been nearly enough time to figure out whether the volumes of parking changes, chronicled every other week in The Journal, have improved availability of parking in and near downtown, or not. No further parking changes that affect downtown should take place until a meeting occurs that involves downtown’s constituent groups — at least members of the RDA board, the Main Street Program and the Downtown Parking Alliance, and perhaps the Platteville Area Chamber of Commerce — with the Common Council, a meeting in which actual communication takes place, not merely talking at each other.
I’ve heard accusations that the Common Council is too dominated by people who have or had a connection to UW–Platteville. I’m unconvinced that’s a problem, but after the Downtown Parking Alliance meeting two weeks ago I am convinced that downtown businesses do not have enough influence on the council. (The number of downtown business owners on the council equals my chance of playing for the Packers this season.)
A staffer for Sen. Dale Schultz (R–Richland Center) committed a flagrant act of democracy by asking how many aldermen were at the Downtown Parking Alliance meeting, held Sept. 11 before that night’s Common Council meeting. The answer: Only District 3 Ald. Eileen Nickels, who represents part of downtown, depending on how you define “downtown.”
District 2 Ald. Barb Daus does not represent any part of “downtown,” but she has been more involved in downtown parking more than any other alderman through her role as chair of the Downtown Redevelopment Authority.
Recall that the city’s Downtown Redevelopment Authority board took Daus’ initial proposal and scaled it back from renting about 85 spaces to about 30. The Common Council, however, seems to favor renting as many spaces as possible, without determining, except for looking at how many cars are parked in city parking lots on a particular day, how much demand there will be for parking spaces that cost $30 per month. One wonders what is the purpose of the RDA board if the council feels free to ignore its recommendations.
(That $360 annual fee could be argued to be a tax increase upon downtown residents or a pay cut for downtown employees, since those are the only two groups likely to rent a parking space.)
The most interesting comment from the last council meeting came from District 4 Ald. Ken Kilian, who represents both most of downtown and the neighborhoods south of Pine Street that got permit parking this summer.
Kilian claimed in a memo that “residents along these streets should not be subjected to the parking problems caused by tenants and employees of Main Street and commuters seeking to find free parking. The parking needs of downtown Platteville should not be shoved into the nearby residential neighborhoods.”
That last sentence covers the north and the south ends of Kilian’s aldermanic district. Kilian’s solution for the former is to make downtown businesses less profitable by $360 per downtown business employee per year, or to take $30 per month away from what downtown employees can spend, or to make living downtown more expensive by $360 per year.
Downtown businesses compete for customers with businesses inside and outside Platteville that are not parking-challenged. Unless the city is OK with vacant storefronts downtown (and the existence of the Main Street Program indicates the opposite), the city needs to do things that will ease parking and mobility issues for downtown businesses.
Common Council President Mike Dalecki complained in August that the city parking map was getting to look like a Christmas tree. It looks more like a collection of paint sample cards at your favorite hardware store. The puce zone is two-hour parking from Sept. 1 to May 15 and four-hour parking outside UW–Platteville semesters. The teal zone is 37-minute parking between 9:14 a.m. and 3:22 p.m. on days beginning in S or T in which the moon is waxing, not waning.
One piece of evidence that suggests that the city’s parking problem may not be as bad as feared, and thus not in need of constant Common Council fixes, comes from the number of permits UW–Platteville has sold to residents of Rountree Commons — as of early September, 279, fewer than half of the new dorm’s 620 residents.
The city’s October water bills will include a survey about parking. It is unscientific, but since it is most likely to be answered by those with a vested interest in downtown, it will be useful as a collection of viewpoints, particularly since UW–Platteville is back in session and Rountree Commons has been open for more than a month. Until those results are released, the council should stop changing parking regulations further until the wave of parking changes from this past summer can properly be evaluated.
Also known as multitasking: If you’re not going to Friday’s Platteville–River Valley game and you want to hear what a newspaper editor sounds like on the radio, tune to 1590 AM before 7 p.m.