Lucas Wall makes the mayor's case for a parking authority
Last week, Lucas Wall gave us a cliffhanger ending in his Move It! column about downtown Houston parking woes:
The mayor's office has been plotting reform of Parking Management. Next week we'll review the plans to revamp how the city handles street parking.
White has appointed Councilwoman Carol Alvarado, whose district includes downtown, to chair a task force on parking reform. He's asked Alvarado to determine if the city should make Parking Management its own executive department with a citizen oversight commission or create an independent parking authority with an appointed board of directors. Such authorities are common in other major U.S. cities.
Several questions come to mind after reading Wall's column. First and foremost, isn't there anything more pressing for Mayor White to be focusing on right now? Like maybe HPD's manpower shortage, or HPD's crime lab that still needs a special investigator/master (not to mention accreditation!), or the municipal employees pension fund mess that isn't quite as cleaned up we've been told, or reclaiming $40 million worth of loans owed to the city? The list could go on and on.
The second question relates to this:
Earlier this month, White appointed Richard Lewis, information technology director, as acting director of Municipal Courts, which includes the Parking Management Division. The mayor has hired a new parking director from out of state, who he wouldn't name but said is scheduled to start next month.
It's very odd to see that bolded part when, in an editorial today, the Chronicle complains about government secrecy:
Today marks the start of Sunshine Week, an effort by the newspaper industry and other news media to promote the value of open government and to enlist public support for it. This year the observance coincides with increased reluctance at all levels of government to reveal information to the public that owns it.
Why did Wall let the mayor get away with not naming the parking director who has already been hired? Is open government a pick-and-choose proposition at the Chronicle?
Third, he mentions that one of Councilwoman Alvarado's choices is a Parking Management department with a citizen oversight commission. Would that citizen oversight commission be elected or appointed? If appointed, who does the appointing; and will they be average citizens, or well-connected, prominent Houstonians? You get my drift, I am sure.
My fourth question involves this:
Alvarado is meeting with constituents. White wants the new parking governance structure in place by year's end.
Is Councilwoman Alvarado meeting with anyone besides her constituents? It would probably be a good idea to meet with people who actually drive into downtown too, not just those who live downtown. Wall quotes at least one person who said she won't be patronizing downtown establishments if parking and parking enforcement are so citizen-unfriendly. Implementing an authoritarian parking entity would probably not be helpful to downtown tourism.
And last, Wall suggests the city drop Saturday parking meter enforcement. Gee, thanks! Where was he last year when this idea sailed through Council?