A Superior Court Judge in New Jersey says that voters can be given the choice as to whether or not a city can charge for parking. Read about it here.
Here is what I think happened. The city, whether purposely or not, gave the impression that the parking charges were for general revenue, basically a tax, and not the result of a policy decision to assist in managing the parking. There is a huge public relations problem here, and worse, a precedent. If this ruling is allowed to stand, I can see groups all over the country lining up to hold referenda on parking fees. And since, the vast majority of parkers feel parking should be free, how is a city going to ever win the vote.
There are other issues as well. This vote in Cape May, NJ, will also decide on whether or not the actual way cars are parked in the area can be changed (parallel to angle, back in rather than pull in). Now we have voters deciding on policy that deals with studies and engineering. The idea of our representative democracy is that we elect city councils and they make those decisions. Having voters decide on locations of signs, parking directions, and yes, parking fees, will lead to chaos. If they don’t like the decisions being made, vote the council out and put in folks who will provide the type of decisions they want.
If we could have a reset on this issue in Cape May, I would have suggested that the city show folks how charging for parking will help provide additional convenient parking in the area. In addition if they were to guarantee that all monies collected would be plowed right back into that area with new streets, lighting, sidewalks, urban renewal, more police patrols, and downtown events, my guess is that they would have had little argument.
But that train has left the station and now the city council is arguing legal precedent, appealing rulings, and paying lawyers. Bad move.