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Fee Increases Help The Budget, But We Need A Solution That Works For Everyone

Kudos to Jamestown City Council members — notably Kim Ecklund, R-At Large, and Marie Carrubba, D-Ward 4 — for their push to remove increased parking fees and fines from the council’s Monday meeting agenda.

Three downtown business owners who spoke with The Post-Journal last week were unanimously against the proposed increases, but something Cliff Powers, co-owner of Lander’s Men’s Store along with his wife, Ann, said really stuck out.

“They have never come around to ask,” he said. “They don’t ask. They just do.”

The city does need to find additional revenue, but as is the case with tax increases, there are real-life implications to fee and fine increases that have nothing to do with helping balance a budget or accomplishing a downtown parking management objective. The city has a month to approve a budget, which means there was no need to rush into increasing parking fees and fines.

That is especially true when no one from the executive branch had talked to downtown business owners making the move. Let this be a lesson to new council members or executive staff – it’s good to talk to the people affected by the decisions made in City Hall before going public with things like this. People like the Powers, John Lisciandro at Lisciandro’s Restaurant or Tom Constantine at the Cherry Lounge have been in business long enough to know what they’re talking about. They and their fellow business owners have put their money and livelihoods in the hands of a downtown that draws people in to spend their money.

If elected officials are going tinker with downtown — either positively or negatively — their opinions should be sought out and valued.

There is a perception that downtown Jamestown is unfriendly to shoppers who want to park on the street and shop. It frankly doesn’t matter that Jamestown has a surplus of parking spaces or that the rate is cheaper than surrounding cities – the perception in this case is reality. Perhaps the way to change that perception, particularly if the city does choose to increase parking rates and fines, is to encourage people to visit downtown with some sort of fine forgiveness system for those who spend certain amounts in a downtown business. Some appointments take longer than anticipated — and some sort of forgiveness system might extend an olive branch to a public that is increasingly leery of coming downtown.

Fine and fee increases help the city budget, but don’t change the perception of parking downtown. It’s time to engage with shop owners and come up with a solution that works for everyone.

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