Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Working at Cross-Purposes?

While the Common Council is trying to funnel all the income from the lodging tax into the general fund because of the pandemic, Mayor Kamal Johnson just eliminated another source of revenue for the City: parking meter fees and parking fines. Late this afternoon, the following announcement appeared on the mayor's Facebook page:
***Effective immediately
I will be suspending alternate side parking and use of parking meters. Thank you for your patience these items will be added to my amended Emergency Order as well as waiving all late fees on tickets giving [sic] after February 1st 2020.
**Excludes South Front street lot (Amtrak)
The 2020 budget anticipated at a 17.2 percent increase in parking meter revenue.


  1. This is actually a pretty sensible step, if a bit overdue.

  2. While this is no doubt welcome news to those reliant on street parking (if not the parking enforcement employees), it underscores a rather serious and somber issue that so far doesn't seem to be on anyone's radar at the Council or the Mayor's office. And this is the budget. Faced by life without a fund balance (squandered spectacularly over the last decade), the budget relies, as you point out, Carole, on hope and a prayer.

    Faced with its own lack of budgetary discipline, the Council's only response has been to increase taxes. First in the form of doubling the cost of street parking and then again by raising water and sewer charges. Well, there's now an approximately $300k hole in the budget. Moreover, as in past panics/disasters, many property owners will fail to pay their sewer and water bills on time (if at all requiring them to be relieved on the property tax bills). No one expects the Spanish Inquisition, as Monty Python said, so can't fault the Council for not seeing it coming during last year's budget process -- but we are where we find ourselves. And don't forget that the lodging tax and sales taxes overall are going to tank in this climate.

    Is there not one person on the Council with an understanding of municipal finance and a creative mind? How about just the former? Just the latter?

    While the City's ability to find new sources of revenue are severely hamstrung by State law (and its constitution), there are things the City should be trying to do to save money. There are 2 council members per ward. Reduce that to 1 and you've saved the City $50k and everyone is still represented. While this will take a public referendum to officially change the City Charter, half the sitting members could quit and not be replaced -- same result.

    If public gatherings are banned for the foreseeable future, the $20k grants for public gatherings should be canceled pending reauthorization if and when.

    It's time for creative, out-of-the-box thinking coupled with leadership. There's not a lot a NYS city (or town or village) can do without Albany's approval but now is the time to leverage what we can do for all we are worth. All hands on deck, right?

    1. The senior and youth centers will undoubtedly need to shift their focus to providing to-go meals and helping families and seniors keep themselves occupied at home.

      I saw 12 kids playing contact basketball at Oakdale yesterday- seems harmless but those kids could make their grandparents seriously ill, though I didn't have the heart to tell them. I hope the schools are providing the guidance those kids need to participate in prevention.

  3. How the heck was HPD planning on writing so many more parking tickets? No more breaks or lunch for the enforcers? Hire another enforcer or two? Great idea!

    1. I don't believe they planned on writing any additional tickets -- they doubled the cost of a meter from $0.25 to $0.50/hour.