Town Council members Mark Cuthbertson and Joan Cergol provided this letter to HuntingtonNow.com
In a recent press release, Huntington’s administration touted a new parking enforcement program which, the release reported, had doubled the number of parking summonses issued in the Village.
Is this their funny way of announcing that Huntington Village is open for business?
The release quotes Huntington’s public safety director as having said, “We’ve had virtually no negative feedback. People are relieved to see the enforcement of parking rules.” In referring to the new parking enforcement officers the director quipped: “At this rate, they will probably have celebrity status around here by summer.”
We don’t want to single out the officers who are following the policy directives from their supervisors, but we fear their status is more likely to become infamous if this misguided initiative continues.
As for the feedback, the negative reaction has been flowing into our offices from the group most affected by this crackdown, the Village merchants. As our merchants have correctly pointed out, the problem is a lack of parking, not a lack of enforcement, as the number of downtown employees far outpaces the number of all day parking spaces in our lots.
Merchants have been working with the Town for a number of years to explore both immediate and longer-term measures to address the parking situation, as they chronicled in letters to the administration dating back to the middle of last year, when they supported a consultant’s conclusion that construction of the long-discussed parking garage was both financially feasible and desirable.
In the merchants’ expression of support for a parking garage, they well understood that any increase in parking fees would be counterbalanced by the availability of additional parking. Our recent NO vote to the increase in parking meter fees in advance of the realization of a parking structure was our good faith effort to affirm the pledge made to our merchants not to increase fees or ramp up enforcement until we deliver parking relief.
As longtime committed partners in the effort to solve the downtown Huntington parking crunch, these business owners fully expect and deserve the Town to make good on its end of the bargain.
So we more than understand and share the merchants’ outrage when the Town Board majority not only pushed through an increase in metered parking fees without notifying or consulting them, but compounded the slight by implementing an enforcement initiative the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce Executive Committee expressly asked not include monetary penalties. In their March 1, 2019, letter the merchants wrote: “The Chamber, based on the feedback we have received, is respectfully recommending that, during the pilot program the enforcement mechanism be warnings to violators rather than monetary penalties as we pursue alternative employee parking. The monetary penalties will be severe.”
We are further disturbed that our colleagues took creative license in implementing a recommendation from the Town’s consultant who factored the increase in secondary street meter fees as one of multiple proposed revenue streams to service future parking garage debt.
A longtime, respected Village business owner summed up in a recent letter: “The comments I hear every day point to more and more people shopping online and fewer coming into town,” he wrote. “Cracking down on scofflaws, raising prices, getting rid of free parking, are tactics that will keep people from coming into town. Retail is changing quickly. Please act to help your merchants and not hurt them.”
Instead of remaining focused on solving the people’s problems, it has become abundantly clear that our colleagues are seeking to solve their own self-created budget woes with inexplicable fee increases to fund their wild spending spree on patronage jobs, one that continues to date.
We are disappointed and embarrassed by the lack of good faith and poor attempt at humor recently demonstrated by our colleagues. We hereby demand they roll back the parking meter fee increase to honor the Town’s promise before their actions undo the three decades of progress that transformed a business district plagued by vacancies and boarded-up stores into the thriving downtown it is today.
MARK CUTHBERTSON JOAN CERGOL