Thursday, April 28, 2011

A win for ethics

The Salem city council tonight declined to override the mayor's veto of the city council jobs bill. Councilor Pinto seemed very unhappy as councilors Lovely, Ryan, and Pelletier all joined O'Keefe and Furey who have always opposed this ordinance change in voting not to override the veto. Pinto spoke, stating that we shouldn't have the rule that prevents councilors from jumping directly into city employment. His reason? Peabody, LYNN, and Beverly don't have one. Well, then of course they must be right. Councilor O'Keefe gave an impassioned speech about how we SHOULD lead the way on ethics, and shouldn't weaken our ethics legislation. I'm disappointed in the councilors who voted for the veto. They are councilors Pinto, Sargent, McCarthy, Ronan, Sosnowski and Prevey.

The best moment of the meeting happened before it started. Around 7:07 the cameras and mics were on, though the meeting hadn't started. None of the councilors knew they were live. O'Keefe leaned over to Prevey, and said something along the lines of "Look at all the media tonight. The Globe is here, there's Patch, oh, and the snooze. There really isn't anything in that paper." Somehow, I'm betting that doesn't make the rebroadcasts.

Late in the meeting Councilor Sosnowski also accused the commission that came up with the downtown parking plan of having meetings where "literally" (yes he said literally) "half of the members fell asleep." Wow.

This was one of the longest, most annoying meetings I've ever seen. Read my tweets from last night for more info.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Derby Lofters Whining Again

In yet another display of why city council shouldn't be in charge of things like outdoor dining permits, the downtown parking plan has been tabled for now, due to the whining coming from around 20 residents of Derby Lofts. As we've discussed here, and here, and here, some Derby Lofters have an inflated sense of self-importance. They are at it again. Because 20-ish of them (in a city of more than 40,000) have complained that they don't like some of the rules, the council is kowtowing to 0.05% of the citizens. Good job guys! It's that kind of kowtowing that led to the forming of urban renewal districts, and Redevelopment Authorities, to take some decisions away from elected officials who are always willing to kowtow to the screaming minority.

The beginning of the Salem News piece is funny. It reads, "Strong and unified opposition voiced last night by residents of Derby Lofts condominiums delayed the City Council's expected action on major changes to the city's management of downtown parking." Strong and unified opposition? There are 54 units in the building. Many are occupied by more than one person. Let's go with the assumption that the building houses 75 people. Well then less than a third showed up. So, not even a majority of Lofters showed up, while the council is acting like a majority of citizens have an issue here.

I'm not saying the parking plan released was perfect. I critiqued it here. But it's important to note that Derby Lofters have a long history of complaining about their parking passes. See here and here. It's also important to consider that the purchase of these passes was very clearly explained during the sales process of Derby Lofts. I know, as I was house hunting at the time, and went through the pitch. Thank God I didn't buy there. Julianna Tache did a very thorough job of explaining that the parking pass purchase was mandatory due to the lack of onsite parking. Stealing from my previous parking critique, it's interesting that I have the two issues that this 0.05% of Salem residents is complaining about listed as the first two in "the good" of the good, the bad, and the ugly.

  1. Enforcement hours until 8 PM. OK, so really this is a money grab, but it's a money grab that I like. Let's use the lots at Lafayette and New Derby as an example. It's 5:30 at night, and you're on your way to a friend's house. You want to pop into Pamplemousse to grab a bottle of wine, or you're feeling klassier and want to run into the Beehive for a whoopie cushion. These lots are your closest, best bet for a parking spot for ten minutes. There's only one problem. It's now 5:30. Nearly every spot in these two lots has been gobbled up by a Derby Lofter, and won't be made available again until they leave for work at 7:45 in the morning. Yes, even though they have passes to the garage down the street, they choose to park here because it's free after 5 and it's about 300 feet closer. What should happen here is that one of these lots, maybe the one that exits onto Lafayette only, should be short term, maybe half 30 minute and half hour spaces. Heck, charge a buck an hour for them. People who need to get in and out to patronize a business will pay it to have the space. Alas, we'll get to the actual plan in "the bad" Enforcement till 8 PM will help keep spots open for people patronizing businesses, and push residents to the permit garages, where they make the most sense.
  2. Really inexpensive parking in the South Harbor Garage. Great news for people willing to walk from there to Pickering Wharf, and great for patrons of Murphy's and Beer Works.

If you want downtown to thrive, and be an evening destination, patrons have to be able to access downtown businesses, in the evening. When residents fill the public lots, that doesn't happen. I'm loathe to drive downtown at night, or on Sunday, unless I'm going for hours, because I know that the public lots have become Loft parking. Many a time I've passed up downtown shops for those on Highland Ave because I knew I'd have to walk blocks and blocks for my 2-minute purchase.

The council is giving in to the very people who make extended hours and Sunday enforcement necessary. They come home at 5PM, don't go to the garage they have permits for (note that the reason for the reduced rates is that it is underutilized, in contrast to their argument that there are no spaces), and park in the lots that are there for patrons of nearby businesses. I'd enforce the meters till at least 8PM, and maybe later on the weekends.

In a somewhat related note, I wrote previously that "Derby Lofts Lawsuit" was a popular search term that lands people on this site. While researching this post, I may have found what that search term is about. Apparently in addition to complaining about the rest of parking in "their" garage, they also complain about each other, in court. For a half million bucks, you can live with a drug addict whose mommy bought him a condo. Congrats! He may be worse for property values than Shirley.

On the other hand, apparently there was another lawsuit against Derby Lofts and several unit owners themselves, as well as their mortgage companies, filed by James J. Welch & Co for failure to pay over 6 milliion dollars in construction costs. That suit was filed in 2005 and a settlement was agreed to on 4/3/2006. The civil docket number was ESCV2005-02123. So maybe that's what people are looking for.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Making Outdoor Dining a Fiasco

I was going to write about the outdoor dining conversations taking place at the city council, which you can read about at Salem Patch and the Salem News. I wrote about the issue that seems to be causing this renewed dispute here. Now I don't have to go into it. Go read what Patcher Bil Legault wrote about it. I couldn't agree more.  Big fat ditto from me. Admittedly lazy blog post over.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

It's All Your Fault!

There are traffic lights going up at the intersection of Derby, Congress, and Hawthorne Boulevard. In fact, if you drive through there the lights are already up, and there is a crew there every day working underground at the corner where the Waterfront Hotel is. I don't like traffic lights, and I don't like spending money on them, but I'm all for this one. Why? YOU!

I travel through this intersection at least once a day, sometimes more. I can't remember the last time I went through there without seeing at least one driver doing something, illegal, asinine, or just plain dangerous. I've heard many complain about the addition of yet another stoplight. I'm here to tell you that they are the same people doing the stupid things that caused it. Show me one of the complainers about this and I'll show you one of the people who rides the bumper of the car in front of them through without stopping, or comes to the intersection with no cars in front of them, barely reaches a rolling stop and ignores the line of cars in every other direction before bombing through, or the person who ignores the fact that a pedestrian is crossing where they want to go, drives into the intersection, then stops in the middle because of the pedestrian, blocking everyone.

So yeah, they're putting a light there, you hate it, and you caused it.


Apparently the "real-names" policy at the Salem News isn't working as well as they hoped. (You know, other than taking commenting almost down to zero. That part worked.) I can't imagine what other reason there would be for keeping the comments closed on this letter. Maybe they are afraid someone would point out how stupid the new name of HAWC is. They probably should have just left it alone, or come up with new initials.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Crime Watch

Check out the police log over at Salem Patch. Welcome back, Aubry. We missed you!

A couple just wow moments.

Fights between customers at both Wal-Mart and Target? Gives new meaning to "The High Cost of Low Prices." Blood! Ridiculous, people! There are enough Cadbury Eggs for everyone!

We also must ask, is Shirley Walker at it again? Apparently "someone" called the police because the Lobster Shanty had a band outside, as they regularly do from April through October. Nothing new. Please, let's have the downtown music debate again. That is SO much fun. /end sarcasm. So, where was Shirley at 3:30 on a Sunday afternoon when this complaint was made?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Updated: Is Howling Wolf violating MA booze laws?

UPDATE: John Zorabedian has written about the inclusion of two restaurant owners on the committee proposing home rule petition rules, and the possible conflict of interest issues over at Salem Patch. Go check it out.

Massachusetts has some crazy arcane alcohol laws, in the name of M.A.D.D. Ever seen a happy hour special in MA? Two drinks for the price of one? Probably not. If you have, they are illegal. It's even illegal for a restaurant to comp a drink in this state. Supposedly all of these things reduce drunk driving. Maybe not, maybe so. Groupon recently had to change it's policy in MA because apparently the discounted gift certificates they sell can no longer be used for booze. The ridiculousness continues.

It's in this environment that Patrick Schultz, owner of Howling Wolf Taqueria, was just appointed to a committee to propose rules around home rule petitions for liquor licenses. His appointment was confirmed at last week's city council meeting. This took place, even though he has a vested interest in the results, as a holder of a seasonal beer and wine license, that I imagine he'd like to convert to full year.

With this apparent conflict of interest in place (there is a competing, opposite conflict of interest, as George Carey of Finz, which has a full-year full-liquor license was also appointed), one would think that Mr. Schultz and Howling Wolf would avoid any and all appearances of impropriety around liquor laws. It's because of this that I was so surprised to stumble across the fact that their Monday night special (going on right this second) is any burrito and any beer for $9.

You see, one of these arcane laws is that a beverage must be priced the same for something like five or seven consecutive days. So you could run a drink special, but you'd have to run it for a week. It's this part of the law that makes the happy hour illegal. At face, it appears that Howling Wolf is running a four hour drink special tonight. This is especially true when you consider that it sells beers at several different prices, and burritos also at several different prices. Nowhere can I find something that says that with the purchase of a beer at regular price, your burrito is discounted to make the total $9. Hopefully Mr. Schultz makes such a text change quickly, as I think he has a nice establishment, and I'm dying to try his sangria. Alternatively, all burritos are $4.50 with the purchase of any beer at regular price would probably work.

Let me be clear. I don't think anything should happen to Howling Wolf. I think the promotion should be allowed to continue. I think the law is dumb and out of date, and I'm not 100% sure that he's violating the law, but I'm betting that the MABCC would at a minimum have an issue with the promotion wording. I'm not an expert on MA alcohol law, but I do know some about it, and they tend to interpret towards the absurd, rather than the sensical.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Street Sweeping Boondoggle

Monday is a state holiday (Patriot's Day). As a result, trash pickup is pushed back a day. However, someone didn't consider that when scheduling street sweeping. As a result, those scheduled for street sweeping Tuesday through Friday will end up having their trash pickup on the same day that the sweepers will be out.

Can anyone tell me that won't be a mess? Northside Carting isn't exactly known for getting all of the garbage cans and recycling bins off of the street after they dump them. So a trash can is left up against the filthy curb, street sweeper comes down the street after. Do you really think they're going to get out and move the trash can? Of course not. They'll either go around or over it. That should be fun. It'll be like a game of hide and seek, where your barrel hides, and you get to seek it.

This was a plan fail on the "Plan the work, work the plan" method.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

I love Patch polls. Thoughts on Pedestrian Mall

Salem Patch has another poll going on Facebook today. The question: "What would you like to see happen with the Essex Street Pedestrian Mall?" This one appears to be a landslide.

Currently, 56 have answered "Revitalize but keep it pedestrian."
2 have answered "Allow traffic but only from the months of Nov-Feb or March"
1 has answered "Doesn't bother me either way"
8 have answered "Nothing, leave as is"
0 have answered "Allow traffic"

We keep hearing that people are split on this, and the consultant keeps saying open it, open it, but while not scientific, this poll seems pretty clear. People want this to remain a pedestrian way. I tend to agree with them. It is one of the spaces that make Salem unique. Why strip that. I'm sympathetic to those who support opening it during the winter months, but I wonder if, once it's configured to allow cars, you'll see a strong push from certain businesses along the street to open it up throughout the year.

I think the concept of opening the street up during parts of the day is bound to create a nightmare. Remember that many drivers here during the busiest parts of the year aren't from here, and won't know these rules. They'll be relying on GPS systems that won't know these rules. What happens when that GPS tells them to go down the closed street? Panic ensues, and person stops in the middle of the intersection. More gridlock. I'm certain that model will create a mess. Short of the this month, to that month concept, I think you have to go all or nothing. I vote pedestrian.

I think David Pelletier's remarks in the comment section on this article are completely true. I recall seeing pictures of the little boards people stuck stickers on and it seemed quite clear that the strong bias was towards the pedestrian side. I'd love to see which options they counted as being pro-car.

Does the Snews have something against Kate Leavy? She owns Roost, The Beehive, and Scrub, and has become a big part of downtown retail. Today, in their not-quite-factual about public sentiment editorial they spelled her name wrong. Kate's great, give her her due.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Salem's Top Municipal Earners

The Salem News released their annual article listing the top 50 earners on the city of Salem payroll.

It brought several questions to mind for me. Why are we paying the school superintendent and the chief of police $45,000 more than the mayor? How does the director of buildings and grounds make more than the mayor? How are so many management type positions (deputy chief, director of buildings and grounds, captain) in Salem eligible for overtime? I mean, if you are earning near 120k (before any details or OT), shouldn't that be a salaried position? It is a supervisory position, no? How does the mayor not make the top 50?

The top 50 made just a tick under $6,000,000 dollars last year. The average homeowner property tax bill is about $4,467. At that rate, 1,332 homeowners property tax bills go to nothing other than paying the salaries of the top 50. Remember, that's before we've paid the mayor, City Council, a single teacher or principal, a DPW worker, etc.

Is it any wonder that Salem has one of the highest residential tax rates in the region, at $15.05 per thousand? For comparison, Beverly is $11.63,  Peabody is $10.50, Danvers is $13.41, and Marblehead is $9.57.

Surprised? Neither am I.

What does shock me is that the Salem News may finally have learned how to do a table on a web page. When I viewed this article first it was in typical Salem News gibberish format, where they failed to put it into table format. I went back today and it's actually a table. Good on you Snews!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Kristen Labrie Guilty, Also Convicted

A Superior Court jury in Lawrence today convicted Kristen LaBrie on all counts, including attempted murder, in the death of her son, Jeremy Fraser. I was surprised, when I looked back a few weeks ago, to find that I had never written about this case. I find the entire situation entirely too sad, and think I probably never wrote about it because I get teary when I think about it. Imagine being a young child and having your own mother give up on you, when the odds were strongly tilted in your favor. It is just so sad.

I can only conclude that mother of the year Kristen is some kind of monster. I take no joy in saying that. It's not fun, it's not funny. I completely grant that caring for a cancer patient is grueling. But you don't, when faced with the choice of certain death, or some torment, followed by likely life, choose death for your own child. Not if you have a soul.

Nothing can bring this poor boy back. But I hear his doctor say that there was an 85-90% chance that Jeremy would have been cured, and gone on to lead a normal life, if not for the actions and non-actions of his mother, and I can reach no other conclusion than that she is a monster. Kristen LaBrie simply stole that chance from him, her own son. That seems sub-human to me. So selfish. Her argument, through her lawyer, is that she did the right thing. That's just sick. I understand what a toll cancer can take. I saw it destroy a parent. I saw that parent give up when the outcome was clear. By most accounts, this boy didn't give up, his mother did. His outcome was unclear, and his chances were good. I pray to God that Ms. LaBrie does serious time, where she won't be able to harm any other human beings. I wish this not out of hatred, vengeance or spite, but out of fear that if released she could procreate again. She clearly can't handle parenthood. Parenthood is making those tough decisions, and being strong for that struggling child. Parenthood is doing the hard. Kristen, in the face of adversity, chose not to man up for her kid. She shouldn't be allowed a second chance at that.

There are certain things in this world I just can't understand. Harming a child is way high on that list. Harming your own is number one.

We're back! Miscellaneous

Our long weekend is over, and we're back in Salem. Speaking of back in Salem, my guess is that the homeless population is about to expand. River House in Beverly has announced that they are only going to be open during the day starting May 1, through November 1. I may be wrong, but wouldn't it be more important for a homeless shelter to stay open overnight, than during the day? If they can only staff one or the other, wouldn't it make more sense for it to be the hours when people need a bed to sleep in? Where will the average of 32 people a night go? My guess is Lifebridge of course! If you build it, fill it with beds, and free food, they will come.

Clearly Salem doesn't do enough to support the homeless community. My suggestion? If you were going to cut a check to Lifebridge this year, think about donating to River House instead. Help some other communities bear some of the burden. (Yes, I know it sucks to be homeless. It also sucks to have them passed out on your front steps.)


Salem wannabe Warlock Christian Day made TMZ again. We're laughing AT you, not with you, Christian. Nice guyliner though. Still waiting to see results from the Charlie Sheen Binding. Master of self promotion? Surely. Master of his craft? Doesn't look like it.

Read the comments. Some real winners.


Nice to see the Salem News finally caught up with the students recording teachers story. Too bad it was discussed on Salem Patch and here about six days before the Snooze caught on. Guess it pays to actually be in town.


You can see some pictures of the Blaney Street Pier progress on Salem Patch. Better than mine. Skipped the vanity sign though. Salem News is reporting that the project is on schedule, though I know that one of the abutters was told that they were about two weeks behind schedule. Also, the closure of Blaney Street that was supposed to take place on April 1 was pushed back about a week, with no notice to the neighbors who were told they couldn't be there starting on April 1.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Out of town

I'm away and probably won't update until about Wednesday, but have no fear. In the near future we will discuss St. Joes, Walmart and Lowes, the transfer station, and I'm shocked to find I've never posted about mother of the year Labrie. So stay tuned when I don't have to post from my phone.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

School Committee Observations

Disclaimer: I have a life (No, really!) and only managed to catch part of the School Committee meeting earlier this week.

This is pretty cool. Salem Access TV has some city meetings available for online viewing. You can actually watch the School Committee meeting I'm about to discuss here. (Full disclosure, didn't work for me.)

Anyway, I turned on the meeting this week to try to catch some comments from the public on the proposal by James Fleming to rename the Witchcraft Heights Elementary School. Unfortunately I was too late. I previously mentioned the Salem Patch poll on Facebook. Here's an update. 251 oppose the name change, 5 approve. The Salem MA facebook page posted a similar poll. Results there are 579 opposed, 17 in favor, and 4 maybe. I would hope the writing is on the wall there.

I did see one interesting opinion that gave me pause. The commenter suggested naming the yet-to-be-built senior center after Councilor O'Leary. That idea may have some merit, and should really be considered. There is no renaming cost to naming a new structure. If I were the city I'd poll the population, making sure to get more than ample senior participation, on this concept.

But back to the School Committee. When I turned the TV on there was quite a conversation going on about Massachusetts wiretapping law, and how it was illegal to record someone without their consent. (If you're a longtime reader you know that certain Derby Lofters like to do this.) You can read more about the recording issue in John Zorabedian's piece for Salem Patch. Cameron came across as incensed by this recording of teachers by students, and it really made me wonder what was captured on the recordings. I have to believe it was scandalous in that there was more than simple teaching and learning going on. One of the school committee members' comments made me wonder if threats against a teacher were caught on the recording. Alternatively, I wonder if a teacher was recording saying something improper or unprofessional. There making a big deal about it if some kid was just recording the lesson to study.

Moving on, I know it's akin to suicide to criticize a teacher, but here I go. A large portion of the meeting part that I was able to see involved a presentation on new technology, done by some teachers and somebody in the technology department for the school district. First, it is kind of embarrassing when you are one of the technology leads for the district, and you need to have the Committee stall for you because you can't get the projector for your presentation to work. Additionally, it was almost impossible to make any sense of what any of the presenters were saying. When did teachers' communication skills become so poor? I mean, they really came across as incoherent. I get that they were probably nervous. They were in front of their bosses, and a crowd, and on TV, but public speaking and communicating ideas is a huge part of their jobs. The committee was rude, and didn't help the situation at all. All I can say is that my spouse and I were horrified, and wondered if we need to move before our child reaches school age.

The only thing worse than the incoherence of the instructors was the conduct of much of the School Committee members themselves during these presentations. Did they forget that there were microphones in front of them? They were constantly talking during the presentation, often muttering to each other. Fleming (OK, I have issues with him, but seriously) cracked I don't know how many jokes while these people were tyring to teach him something. I also specifically heard Dr. Walsh, Dr. Crane, and Mr. Carr's voices several times while the teachers were in the middle of speaking. They showed an utter lack of respect for the people trying to speak before them, and it was truly poor form. Show some respect people!

I wondered if this wasn't really as bad as it seemed on TV, so I told someone who was there that I was shocked at how inarticulate some of the teachers seemed, and how rude some of the committee was. I asked if it was any better in person. His response was simple. "It was excruciating."

The Salem politcal scene, summed up perfectly

I enjoy the comments on this site. Yes, even when they rip me. I especially enjoy checking out the blogs of some of the commenters. I've never seen the Salem political scene, and even moreso the Salem News, described so perfectly and concisely as it is by Josh Turiel, here. So good I had to share.

Definitely check it out.

You can follow Josh on Twitter here.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Breaking News: Driscoll out of Senate Race

Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll has just announced that she won't run for Senate in 2012.

Good move by her, she had little chance of beating Scott Brown statewide.

She stated that there was still much to do in Salem. She's right, though some will see that as a threat.

Might we hear later that she'll run for Lieutenant Gov under Tim Murray?

Salem Patch has more details.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Salem Patch Facebook Poll

Salem Patch has a poll on their Facebook page right now that reads "Should Witchcraft Heights be renamed."

As of right now, the results are 101 no, I like it just as it is, 3 for it's unique and cool, and 2 for, yes, it's time for a change. So, an option someone added for unique and cool has collected more votes than yes. Fleming might want to let this one die in committee. You know, if he's there.

Salem Parking ... Simplified?

The city has had a parking study going on for God knows how long. It seems they are actually looking to take some action now. I followed the earliest concept that came from this study. I think the final product is pretty different from what I remember. Some of what they propose makes some sense, and some of it doesn't make much of any at all. Some seems like a pure money grab. So let's look at the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The good:

  1. Enforcement hours until 8 PM. OK, so really this is a money grab, but it's a money grab that I like. Let's use the lots at Lafayette and New Derby as an example. It's 5:30 at night, and you're on your way to a friend's house. You want to pop into Pamplemousse to grab a bottle of wine, or you're feeling klassier and want to run into the Beehive for a whoopie cushion. These lots are your closest, best bet for a parking spot for ten minutes. There's only one problem. It's now 5:30. Nearly every spot in these two lots has been gobbled up by a Derby Lofter, and won't be made available again until they leave for work at 7:45 in the morning. Yes, even though they have passes to the garage down the street, they choose to park here because it's free after 5 and it's about 300 feet closer. What should happen here is that one of these lots, maybe the one that exits onto Lafayette only, should be short term, maybe half 30 minute and half hour spaces. Heck, charge a buck an hour for them. People who need to get in and out to patronize a business will pay it to have the space. Alas, we'll get to the actual plan in "the bad" Enforcement till 8 PM will help keep spots open for people patronizing businesses, and push residents to the permit garages, where they make the most sense.
  2. Really inexpensive parking in the South Harbor Garage. Great news for people willing to walk from there to Pickering Wharf, and great for patrons of Murphy's and Beer Works.
  3. The garages are cheaper than most of the meters. The expensive garage goes from $1.50 an hour to $.75. The cheap one to $.25. One of the ways to clear parking for the comers and goers (those who spend money) is to get those who work in the businesses downtown to stop feeding the meters in the prime locations. I've been saying for years that you need to make it painful for those parking all day not to go to the garages if you truly want the downtown to thrive. This plan may do that.
  4. Monthly passes for downtown employees. To park at meters all day costs about $4 a day currently. This plan makes a monthly pass available for $25 for employees of downtown businesses. The catch, you have to walk a little. These zones would be a little off the beaten path, but easily walkable. If you do, you could save over $50 a month in parking bills.
  5. Meters that take credit cards. I struggled with whether to put this in "the good." I've had terrible experiences trying to use the ones in the Church Street lot. Also, I was just on New Chardon Street in Boston, where they recently replaced all the meters with new-fangled credit card machines. They also come with little LED lights that were very noticeable, even during the day, that lit red or green, based on whether there was time left on them. Wouldn't really fit the old-time aesthetic we are going for in much of downtown. Why is this in "the good?" Right, the one ticket I got in Salem was because I had no change. I always have a debit card.
  6. First one's free. Annually, your first parking ticket will be forgiven. Somehow I bet they strike this one. 

The bad

  1. This plan calls for increasing the meter time limits to 4 hours. This is completely backwards. You want the person spending the day to go to the garage. If they are going to change the time limit, it should be to create more 30 minute and 1 hour meters. Not more 4 hour meters. It's not clear if they are even going to keep any of the short term meters that currently exist.
  2. Go read what I wrote about credit card meters above. It belongs here, too.
  3. The plan is to increase the cost of parking in the Salem lot adjacent to the MBTA lot to $4, to match the price charged in the MBTA lot. This probably won't increase revenues as much as they think. The Salem lot fills faster than the MBTA lot because it is half the price. There are many days that the Salem lot is full and the MBTA lot is not. Raise the price, and you'll see that flip the other way. The MBTA lot is nicer, in better condition, and closer to the tracks than the Salem lot. The two are not comparable, and the rates shouldn't be either. Pure cash grab.
  4. Some would put enforcement until 8PM here. I disagree, as I stated above.
  5. Meter tickets would go from $15 to $30. I don't entirely have a problem with that. Put money in the damn meter, moron. It's money that frequently comes from sources other than Salem homeowners.
  6. That said, we're talking about meter rates that rival, and sometimes exceed Boston, where you can park at most meters for $1 an hour. Same story for meter tickets. Ouch.

The ugly:

  1. The supposed purpose of this new plan isn't to gouge people, but to simplify. That's a noble (stated) goal, but I'm not buying it. Go back to the article linked above. The article points out that the city has 13 different types of parking. In this new world there are six different price points for parking. Click on the photo attached to that article and count for yourself. Even more confusing, go to one city parking garage and pay a quarter an hour to park there. Go to the other, pay 75 cents for the same hour. Talk about confusing. So they've taken two types of parking, meter and garage, and turned it into six. I don't buy that we're simplifying. We still haven't talked about resident parking, monthly permit, annual permit, employee permit ... do we really have fewer types than in the old system? I don't think so.
  2. If you're a resident of Crombie, Lynde, or Federal Street, or Summer, and Dodge Street, this plan sucks for you. The resident sticker parking on your street becomes available either to all, or to downtown workers from the hours of 8-5. Sucks if you don't work standard hours. Sorry.
  3. Do the math on the expected cost to implement these changes. The cost is estimated at $850,000. The expected increase in revenues is a whopping $60,000. So in slightly more than 14 years we will have made up what we spent. MY GOD! We must just be terrible at math. I'll let you in on a little secret. That $850,000 doesn't include the cost to keep replacing these fancy new smart meters, which I'm sure will do just fine with New England coastal winters. Those credit card strip readers will just keep humming, and won't be constantly broken, and in need of repair in the frozen, salty air, right?

I get the idea here. Really, I do. Make the most underutilized parking more attractive by lowering the price, and the most attractive parking the most expensive, because people will pay for it. Here's the thing, though. Salem doesn't have a parking problem, really. It has a lardass, lazy, refuse to walk 3 blocks problem. This convoluted proposal won't fix that. The mayor and council relationship seems contentious at this point. Though the council was on board with this study concept previously, I'm not sure they pass this into law.

An unrelated note: I know there are a lot of Kim Driscoll haters out there, but seriously, people, it could be a lot worse.