Corners of our community that previously have been silent as the City engages in one reckless budgetary decision after another have spoken up and spoken up in unusually forceful terms about the recommendation of the City administration to enter into a long-term lease not only of parking lots and garages owned by the City, but the very right to collect parking revenues from parking along the City's streets. These vociferous opponents include the Green Party, the Clifton Town Meeting, the Enquirer, Hyde Park Neighborhood Council, and others.
Most (but not all) of the commentary to date has focused on the foolish fiscal policy of selling an asset (or leasing it long-term) to fill a budget hole for only six months or one year, which is what the administration is proposing. Certainly, that is unwise policy.
But as with Red Light Cameras, there is a second and much more pernicious problem with the plan: the sale of the City's police powers, the privatization of the law enforcement function.
This particular act of selling on-street parking revenue streams is odious because we trade policy that should be multifaceted -- with impacts on public safety (where is parking safe and needed?), parking policy (e.g., needed high turnover rates), economic development (discouraging people from shopping in the City's business districts or even live in the City) to a private company that has only one motivation -- maximizing profits.
Further, the enforcement function also naturally migrates from these and other multifaceted considerations, including constitutional considerations of innocence until proven guilty, right to confront witnesses, burden of proof, justice and fairness, to, again, purely being about maximizing revenues.
By thus turning over the home rule powers (to set parking rates), the police powers (to enforce parking laws) and the judicial function (of hearing appeals to liability) to a private entity, we enter a brave new world where a private company -- largely independent of judicial review -- can extract monies from the citizenry in fairly small increments, and our duly elected but clueless Council gladly turns this power over to them so they can continue wasting money on excess personnel and a Streetcar the City can't afford.
Candidly, far more than the money at issue, the City is trading away its governmental powers for a few pieces of silver. These powers are held by these Council members as a fiduciary for the citizenry, and the trading away of these powers long term is a breach of that fiduciary obligation -- and likely illegal.
The voters of this City rightly should remove these unprincipled Council members from power in November of 2013, but (as with the stadium deal and ObamaCare) by then the damage will have been done.
We have only ourselves to blame for electing scoundrels who fail to understand the power with which they have been entrusted.