Our View: Let's have answers on parking fees

Officials give poor accounting of where parking money goes

February 13, 2012 

Maybe this is a good time for the Assembly to ask for an independent audit of the Anchorage Community Development Authority and EasyPark, the downtown parking enforcer. Make the results clear and public.

That way, no citizen would get the bureaucratic shuffle and tooth-pulling exercise experienced by Daily News columnist Julia O'Malley when she asked where that parking money goes.

ACDA runs EasyPark, at work since August after voters agreed in the April 2011 city election to renew parking downtown parking enforcement with non-police staffers for the first time since 1997.

Curious readers asked O'Malley to find out where the money goes. Fair question, especially with EasyPark's efficient ticketing for violators at $20 for most offenses. Residents who pony up for tickets, deposit change or swipe credit cards at city meters deserve straight, easy answers.

When O'Malley asked, she got bureaucracy. Must have written request. Want interview? Must have questions in writing.

What O'Malley found after a meeting and followup questions was that some parking money goes to pay for the ACDA's development projects. This information wasn't readily volunteered.

This information should be up on a web site where anyone can see where the money is going.

ACDA takes public money to encourage development that doesn't compete with the private sector. It has the authority to make deals under $6 million without approval by the Assembly and without participation by affected communities.

That's wide latitude.

With that latitude comes the need for public accountability. Right up front.

If EasyPark's domain of parking lots, garages and meters is paying for development projects like Glenn Square, North Pointe Bluff and others, the people who pick up the tab deserve to know for what and how much.

Voters approved the new parking enforcement for downtown because there was a common-sense reason for it. To keep downtown retail business traffic moving, people have to be able to park. Without enforcement, meter hogs indulged themselves. The new system put boundaries on both the streets and the violations, and took police-in-training off the meter beat.

Voters also put their trust in the people running the show. ACDA executive director Ron Pollock and EasyPark director Rick Onstott should remember '97, when residents put parking enforcment on a mighty short leash and kept it there for 14 years.

That memory should encourage public accountability. What Anchorage voters did once, they can do again.

BOTTOM LINE: EasyPark? How about easy answers to where the money goes.

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