Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sittenfeld Gets It Wrong on Sunday Parking

Looking to fabricate false political issues to be the grandstanding champion of the hour, Cincinnati Council Member P.G. Sittenfeld sent out an email (pdf)  yesterday with what must have been very short sided or just careless analysis. In his email he included a draft copy of the of Parking Plan Agreement between the City and the Port Authority. Sittenfeld is claiming that City Manager and other elected city officials were not honest when they stated that the parking meters will be free on Sundays under the new plan.  Well, it is my opinion (based on the agreement) that the City Manager was being honest, and Sittenfeld is either creating a false news story to mislead the public or he really just didn't read the document very well, or yes, it could be both.

Schedule 4 of the City agreement clearly states the hours and days of operation of Parking meters.  Sundays are not included in the Period of Operation.  There, that simple.

So on the surface that seems good, and Sittenfeld is plain old wrong.  Sittenfeld is playing a dishonest political game and is wasting his and our time with a sideshow.  Instead he could go into more depth and find a problem.

There is a big catch to Free Sundays.  If Sittenfeld was looking carefully, instead of charging at windmills, he might have read the following sections and definitions listed in the agreement:
“Period of Operation” means, (i) with respect to each Metered Parking Space, the Days and the period or periods of time during each Day that the City permits the parking of a motor vehicle in that Metered Parking Space and requires the payment of a Metered Parking Fee for use of that Metered Parking Space as set forth on Schedule 4; and (ii) with respect to the Parking Facilities, the Days and period or periods of time during each Day that the City permits the parking of a motor vehicle in a Parking Garage or Parking Lot as set forth on Schedule 4.
So the definition of Period of Operation includes the days and the hours during each time. Next P.G. should read Section 7.8a(ii)
(ii) Increases in Period of Operation. Following the Initial Adjustment Date, the Port Authority may increase the Period of Operation for the Parking Spaces, provided, however, that the Port Authority shall not increase the hours of operation for the Metered Parking Spaces to any hour earlier than 7 a.m. or later than 9 p.m. without the unanimous approval of the Advisory Committee.
So, they can change the Period of Operation after a certain date. Next you better read what "Initial Adjustment Date" means:
“Initial Adjustment Date” means, with respect to each Parking Facility or Zone, the date on which all technology improvements have been made to the respective Parking Facility or Zone in accordance with Schedule 18.
Finally, read up on Schedule 18:
On-Street Parking System
Smart parking meters must be installed at each Metered Parking Space in each Zone for the Initial Rate Adjustment Date to occur for that Zone. These smart parking meters must be battery powered, wireless, and offer coin and credit card acceptance. Smart parking meters do not need to be installed at Metered Parking Spaces where the City installed IPS meters approximately two years ago.
Bottom line, in my humble layman's opinion, there is the strong possibility that the Port Authority could adjust the Period of Operation to include additional days, including Sundays, after the Initial Adjustment Date has been met.  Therefore under the agreement, free Sunday street parking is not a permanent requirements  if the Port Authority meets its upgrade obligations.   If Sittenfeld or any other member of council wants to propose an adjustment to section 7.8a(ii) which defines how a period of operation can be changed, to exclude adding any Sunday Street Parking, then I would support that.  This could be a real problem that might just be an oversight, instead of the confused mess Sittenfeld made of Schedule 9.

Just to tie up a loose end, let's examine why Sittenfeld made his false claim at all.  He's worried that there is a limit to the amount the city can exclude parking rates from being open.  He points to this definition:
“Identified Event Threshold” means not greater than five and one half percent (5.5%) of the aggregate number of Parking Spaces which would otherwise be operated during a Franchise Year but for an Identified Event.
That is true. The problem is how Sittenfeld then went through a big calculation to determine what the threshold would be assuming that that "aggregate number of Parking Spaces which would otherwise be operated during a Franchise Year" to mean all possible spaces open all the time the whole year. He even misquotes the section by saying "all parking space hours in a year." Clearly Sittenfeld didn't want to mention Schedule 4 and how it defines what spaces can be operated and when, thus creating a differing number of parking hours, not including Sundays or other hours not open under the schedule. Sittenfield was all bent on the inclusion of Sundays and Holidays in the definition of an "Identified Event."  Those should be included when talking about parking garages since under Schedule 4, since the Parking Garages are open on Sundays and Holidays.  For Sittenfeld it is not clear enough, so via Twitter he advised me that the Port Authority is going to make changes to address the issue.  If I were them a simple addition of  " in the Parking Garages" on lines 18 and 19 of Schedule 9 should be enough to quell the perceived mighty Knights threatening the public.

So when in his email Sittenfeld wrote "Sundays Would Not, In Fact, Be Free:" he was lying on two levels. First he was lying because under the contract Sundays are not days of Operation for Parking meters, they will be free (for now). Hell, even if someone tried to incorrectly invoke his false Identified Event Threshold theory, street parking would be free on Sundays, the city might lose revenue on the deal. Second is that even if the contract is too confusing and the lawyers need to tighten it up, there was no intent of deception on the part of the City or Port Authority. Sittenfeld used "can't keep a promise" as words to disparage the City Manager and those elected officials supporting the parking plan. That is the implication that they did this on purpose. No, they didn't.  That's a lie.

This type of argument is something I would have expected from a Smitherman or a Winburn or a Cranley.  Sittenfeld doesn't want to be in their anti-progress camp.  Go with the future, don't go with the politics of the past.

What needs to happen now is

  1. The lawyers to tighten the language to quell the fears of Sittenfeld et al.
  2. Sittenfeld and the rest of City council needs to look at the section I pointed out above about how the period of operation can or should be change to exclude street parking on Sundays.
  3. Add a definition of what 'Holidays' are mean. I didn't find one mentioned.  Saying all State and Federal holidays with some language about changes in the future should suffice.

Then if there are other bigger issues that are not disputed as written, but for which anyone, especially those on council, disagree with, then debate those.  If there are details not in the agreement that are key, it is valid to have that before voting on it.  Stay away from paper tigers.

Don't cherry pick topics, like parking free on Sundays, and try and get the public pissed at the City, especially under false pretenses.  That is just the worst type of grandstanding and it is a soul killing political action.

1 comment:

  1. Any of those PG supporters starting to have buyer's remorse?


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