Saturday, December 6, 2014
Going by the official City of Salem website, what is the ONE MOST IMPORTANT THING about downtown in terms of luring shoppers? See headline below for your answer:
There are lots of views on parking charges, but one thing that everyone who criticizes the downtown merchants (afraid of what meters will do to them) ought to admit is that those merchants are just accepting what the city itself emphasizes time and time again: that people in Salem are irrationally welded to "free" parking and make decisions about where to shop and recreate based on the presence or absence of visible parking charges.
Want more proof that the city talks with forked tongue on parking meters?
Ask the city why the meters in the city parking ramp next to the library are all charging half of what all the other city meters are. The library staff were adamant that they would see a big drop off in library use if people had to pay the same rate at the library as at other city meters.
Maybe, maybe not.
But if public employees are so sure that parking charges drive away business, then it's hard to criticize business owners -- most of whom rent their storefronts, paying under leases that were negotiated without meters -- for being believing them, or for being concerned about how meters will affect their livelihood.
Downtown is a complex puzzle, and insisting that we should simply put in meters and that they are the solution to downtown's troubles --- well, if you believe that, you all very likely not someone with any economic stake in the downtown, and you won't miss any meals if your theory turns out to have been wrong.
We need to step-back, focus on the bigger picture, and stop insisting that the only element needing to be addressed is meters, yes or no. For one thing, Salem needs to stop undermining downtown by threatening to bypass it to please Chuck Sides and the Chamber of the 1% by building the proposed Third Bridge (Bridgasaurus Boondogglus), which could very well turn Salem's downtown into a downtown like those in Eastern Rust Belt cities.
"Let's live on the planet as if we intend to stay."