But…How did we get into this mess


But…How did we get into this mess

The City of Baltimore City has a problem. It has over $100 million in past due parking fines and fees. To solve it the wise folks in Maryland hired an outside firm to collect the money. They started with threatening letters.
Fair Enough.

My question is: Is anyone asking how the city got into that position in the first place? How were all those people able to get by all this time ignoring the law? How did it get so bad that they had to go outside and hire a company to help them "collect?"  Let me guess.

Tip O’neal said famously "all politics are local." In this case, all parking is political. No one wants to go out on a limb and enforce the parking laws. They aren’t really laws, they are "suggestions." Everyone knows that parking should be free and that enforcement is evil. Just ask anyone on the street.

There is no doubt in my mind that a philosophical shift is necessary in the parking business. That has to come from our side, not our customer’s side. That’s right, customers.  Cities need to look on the parking space available as a product and those using it as customers. Can you imagine Wal-Mart or Neiman Marcus or MacDonalds or Starbucks letting people walk out without paying, every day, and running up millions and millions of losses. That their policies are set in such a way that people can simply walk in, pick up something and walk out.  If you are caught shoplifting in Neiman Marcus you go to jail. If you don’t pay your fine or ignore it, you get a quiet word in the form of a ltter.

Two things — First, Lets change the attitude of the cities. Lets make this a business transaction rather than a legal one. Make it easy for people to pay, and begin to make them understand that the money they pay goes for something more than another payment in the "black hole" of typical political activity. And second, if they don’t pay, simply make it so they can’t park in city lots or surface streets any longer. If that means immobilizing their car, or towing and selling it,so be it.


Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

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