Politics: Putting ‘The Breaks’ On Parking

By Jeffrey Bradley

Would you co-sign a $70,000.00 car loan today if somebody asked you?

No doubt your answer would be a resounding ‘No!’ because in this economy everybody’s watching the “bottom line”. Even in Paradise, times are tough.

Question is, if it’s not acceptable to borrow $70 thousand to buy a car then why’s it OK to borrow $70 million to park it?

On Wednesday this week, the Miami Beach City Commission will have an agenda item before it to bond out this outrageous sum to build more parking. ‘Bond’ is very misleading: the issue’s had no public comment and is being pushed through during the summer doldrums. Anyway, isn’t there a law on the books already enjoining the City to hold at least 2 public meetings before moving forward? We’d swear to it.

Incurring municipal debt of this kind should always be by referendum.

The City did ask once, remember? That $92 million dollar 1992 GO Bond enabling our streetscaping was only issued after ratification by the voters!

Following last year’s budget, the Commission hired a consultant to make recommendations after analyzing the City’s general revenue streams. Excellent; a financial “gut check” lets you know where you stand, especially if you’re a city. But presented only last week, they came with a caveat that the commission “not count” on these findings because it’s too late in the process to discuss raising the money—but NOT for spending it!

Here’s the kicker: Issuing this series of parking bonds precludes any discussion of using the money for anything else than paying down that seventy-million dollars!

The consultant report highlights parking revenue as being able to help the budget far more. This Review Status and Use of General Fund Properties by the Parking Fund is a big ticket item. Huge, in fact.

Unfortunately, any changes will automatically nullify the bonds. So, when they’re issued the deal is set in stone!

What’s REALLY disturbing is that it’s just plain wrong of the City to borrow more money to build more parking when it already loses huge sums on the parking it has already and REFUSES to deal with the issue that’s really clogging the streets: a lack of municipal mobility!

The City ABSOLUTELY FAILS to utilize its opportunities to enhance transportation. It ADAMENTLY RESISTS insisting on multi-modal facilities when designing and building new projects, CAVALIERLY RENEGES on funding transportation enhancements it does plan and STEADFASTLY REFUSES to offer public transit as a viable alternative for residents and guests, who have no other choice but to get around town by car! But IT DOES use regressive regulations and misguided on-street parking policies to disguise the fact that too many cars on the Beach are causing the gridlock.

Once again, the City is seeking the easy fix, this time with added parking to solve the congestion problem their own lack of vision created!

Before Miami Beach spends, or loses, one more cent on parking—consider that newest costly underutilized parking behemoth behind City Hall, or the spectacular failure of those 1000+ spaces at Fifth and Alton: can you say subsidized?—a comprehensive transportation policy/plan must be implemented. The best way of achieving that is by <gasp!> parking fees!

Beware!  Borrowing this parking revenue will effectively tie our hands for the next 30 years. Looked at another way, we’re stealing $70 million from our children. Now, wouldn’t this money be better spent building a transportation infrastructure to support that world-class attraction we must become to strengthen us economically? Besides, once you park it, how are you going to get around?

Most assuredly, whatever else it is, the answer is NOT more parking.

All this simply buttresses the fact that neither the administration nor elected officials grasp the depth of the problem. Is it an inability to understand, or simple denial that prevents seeing these obvious ramifications? The maxim holds that you can’t fix a problem on the same level it was created; how, then, is it they don’t invert the paradigm or even show a willingness to shake it up through broader thinking and, at the very least, ponder publicly ways of doing different? Until it’s acknowledged, the crushing burden that reliance on the automobile, with its cumbersome motive power and necessity of fossil fuels imposes, we’ll continue to stagger like Adam under the piled centuries. Is not the endgame apparent to even the most obtuse?

Perhaps not. Murmurs has it that even the City Manager doesn’t think it’s the City’s job to “do” public transit. Who knew? Strange, that; for it’s also patently obvious that it’s FDOT’s—not the City’s—job to “do” roadways, yet both the Manager himself and the City Commission are there in the thick of it, furiously tweaking stop sign placement and traffic-light signals, whenever it comes to making cars go faster. Don’t think so? Just look what a hard sell it is to get them to put down bicycle lanes! (Listen, people actually believe Obama needed 82 days to plug that oil well!)

Is this refusal to see, let alone act, endemic? Too bad. Despite rustlings in the political underbrush portending at least a few commissioners are starting to get it, we (forlorn hope?!?) continue to await proof of vision and leadership.

<Sigh> Leading us down this blind path of transit perdition is a sad reminder that most politicos are simply content to be Commissioners Pothole and Wardheel.

But we expect better.

Officials don’t understand the problem because they only drive cars. When we oblige them to ride public transportation for one week a month, every month, improvement’ll happen <a snap of the fingers> that quick.

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