Call it an occupational hazard.
When local governments set policy, criticism often follows.
That’s been particularly true in Starkville where push-back has emerged, albeit it well after the fact, on the city’s mobile parking ordinance, which was implemented in September.
The Starkville Board of Aldermen signed a contract with the third-party, paid-parking service ParkMobile six months ago.
The system, primarily in use in The Cotton District and Midtown, requires payment through a mobile app, but a complaint by resident Shana Lee has prompted the aldermen to take another look at how the parking system is advertised and enforced.
Lee said she was unaware of the paid-parking system until she received a $25 citation for failing to pay for a paid parking space.
She wrote a letter that appeared in The Starkville Daily News, which quickly spread through social media, prompting the Board of Aldermen to revisit the system.
City officials say they have performed their due diligence in making sure the public was aware of the new parking system on its website and in stories from local media.
One of Lee’s criticisms is that the signage alerting drivers that the parking spaces are in paid-parking zones is insufficient. Current signage includes a single, nearly one-foot sign per every few parking spots. Customers must download ParkMobile’s app or use the company website to reserve a parking space.
We find the city’s paid parking solution in line with other cities. Additionally, we’re glad to not see excessive signage.
To their credit, though, on Tuesday the board of aldermen held a public hearing to discuss amending the ordinance and will vote on changes at its regular May meeting. During the meeting, the aldermen discussed some of those possible changes, including adding more signage and offering a grace period for those ticketed for the first time. Instead of a citation, the city would notify offenders of the infraction and warn them that future violations will result in a $25 fine.
Invariably, when such changes are made, there will be a period of adjustments as awareness of the change grows. That’s likely what we are seeing here.
As it is with most laws/ordinances, it is the ultimate responsibility of the citizen to know and comply with the rules. Even so, the city should do everything within its power to inform citizens when changes are made and be lenient in its enforcement, at least in the early stages.
A grace period for parking tickets, during which reminders about the paid parking system are handed out instead of tickets, seems to be a logical solution. We hope the city avoids a glut of signs.
While we do not yet know what changes — if any — will be made to the parking ordinance in this instance, we do commend the board of aldermen for their response to the criticism. It is human nature to become defensive in the face of criticism, but it is far more effective when city officials listen in a constructive manner.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.
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