A committee of the City Council once again took up one of the longest debated issues in recent memory: parking.
At its Oct. 16 meeting, the City Council’s dedicated Parking Committee began initial debate on establishing a city-wide resident parking program.
The council has flirted with a city-wide parking program for the better part of a decade. Though, according to materials provided to the committee by city Parking Director Ron Hogan, the last official proposal came in 2011, the council and various committees have brought up the topic many times in the intervening years, each time stumbling on several topics, including specifics of the program and enforcement.
The biggest step the council made since then was this past year, when it seemingly figured out the question of enforcement by creating a new Parking Department. Last year, at the behest of then Ordinance Chair Craig Spadafora, the Ordinance Committee briefly talked about a parking sticker program before putting that on hold to hash out the details of the Parking Department. With that now in place, the council, through the newly created Parking Committee, is bringing up the matter once again.
“If we don’t do it this time, it’s an embarrassment to this body,” Spadafora said.
Committee members were provided a large binder by Hogan that contained a swath of information, including prior actions on the matter taken by the council, other municipalities approach to parking and his suggestions on the matter. Included in Hogan’s recommendations was the polarizing idea of automatic license plate scanning. Hogan explained that, in an effort to streamline the process for residents, he called for using information provided by the Registry of Motor Vehicles as the bases for the database, allowing for enforcement officials to use a vehicle’s license plate as a virtual parking sticker. When enforcement vehicles drove down a street, scanners would look at every parked car’s license plate, only reporting to the operator when it found cars it didn’t recognize. While seemingly efficient, several councilors brought up civil liberties issues, questioning the “big brother” aspect scanning every license plate. “I’m concerned, and I would be hesitant to vote on that,” said Councilor Ryan O’Malley.
No vote was taken at this meeting, but with the information provided by Hogan in hand as a jumping off point, the committee plans to meet again in two weeks to continue to debate the topic.