The government undertook two reviews of the parking meter contract. The details of the contract which are now being made public would have therefore caught the attention. It is surprising, considering the implications of some of the clauses in that contract, that the government did not veto the entire parking meter scheme.
The government had a second chance to do this when the by-laws were sent to it for approval. The by-laws, reportedly, were approved but not yet gazetted. Why would the government have approved the by- laws considering the two reviews which were done by the government?
There are some troubling aspects of the contract. First, there is the issue of approval having to be obtained from the parking meter company for private parking lots in the city. This impinges on the right to private property.
What happens if someone decides to open a paid parking lot in the city? Will City Hall have to see the permission of the parking meter company before granting this permission? This is unacceptable and unconstitutional.
If City Hall is interested in greater order, it would be in its interest to encourage private citizens to establish parking lots within the City. In fact, the government should be utilizing some of the public spaces within the City for free parking for motorists since even if everyone decides to pay the new tariffs, there will still be a need for additional parking space in Georgetown.
Right now the areas allocated for metered parking are not being fully occupied because people are boycotting the parking meters. But once people decide to start paying, there will be a jostle for prime parking spots; the confusion will return. Parking will be hard to get downtown.
When the parking meters were first launched persons began to park in areas where there were no parking meters to escape paying. It is now being suggested that City Hall can designate certain areas in the city as no parking zones. This means that even though there will be no parking meters in those areas, parking will not be allowed. If this is indeed the case, then the reality is that citizens can run but they cannot hide from the parking meter system.
All these factors make the entire parking meter issue highly complicated. It is now no longer a matter of the rates charged for parking. It now becomes possible that the citizens of Georgetown and those who utilize its services will not be able to escape the effects of parking meters.
A solution has to be found. There has been a call for the contract to be scrapped. City Hall will face bankruptcy if it walks away from this contract because there are liabilities which will be incurred for doing so. City Hall cannot walk away from this contract.
Some persons are demanding a reduction in the fee to $40 an hour rate but there is no way that this can be approved because it will not be feasible for the parking meter company. The reduced rate of $100 per hour will make it unaffordable for workers to pay because this will dig deep into their pockets. Some will be able to pay but those who have to park for long hours, (the workers), will not.
This however raises a possible solution to the problem. A solution has to be found for those workers who have to pay for parking. City Hall should allow for parking lots to be established for workers.
The government should look seriously, also, at offering free parking at some locations. Bai Shan Lin had developed a part of the government reserve which runs adjacent to Lamaha Street. This part was to be used by the GRA, but because of the distance involved it is not used. The government should open this entire strip to be controlled by free parking in the northern part of the City. Some businesses are already using sections of the strip for customer parking. The Ministry of Finance has taken over a section for its own workers. Thousands of vehicles can be accommodated on that strip which belongs to government.
Parade Ground can also be used for free parking. Other locations can be found which can be utilized by workers who cannot afford to pay for all day parking in the City.
The only other realistic option apart from this, would be for the citizens to sustain the present boycott that is in place. But they should stay clear of any acts of civil disobedience as is being proposed.
People must obey the law. Those who want to propose civil disobedience should not donate money. Instead of calling on people to park and not pay, they should bring their expensive Mercedes and BMWs and park it in the parking meter lots so that it can be booted. But do not ask poor people to join in any civil disobedience.
Poor people are nobody’s pawns, not City Hall, not the parking meter company, not the government nor those who are preaching civil disobedience!
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