By Paul Gorski
I agree with Frank Schier in his request (“Editorial: Bobbing for apples in Lake Michigan,” June 12-18 issue) that the Rockford City Council not install parking meters in downtown Rockford. I speak to this issue from the unique position of being a tourist in Rockford, a resident of the region and also as one who hears the parking meter complaints of Chicago residents.
I believe the Rockford City Council needs to look at all potential revenue streams — that is part of the council’s job — but please take a pass on installing parking meters.
Schier reminds us that city parking meters were removed in 1983. Coincidentally, that was the year I began spending nearly all my free weekends here as a tourist, visiting my then-girlfriend, now wife, and her family. We spent a lot of time traveling to local events, stores and the like, and I was ever so grateful that we weren’t greeted by parking “meeters.”
I’ve always thought that parking meters were a poor way to introduce tourists to a region. “Thank you for driving here? Could you give us some cash before you get started on your day’s activities?”
We already impose hotel and other taxes on tourists, why “meet” them at our front door with our hands out? Don’t install parking meters, unless you want to alienate tourists.
I know local residents who are hesitant to visit downtown Rockford. Schier points out that Mike Leifheit and Chris Wachowiak, among other successful business owners, know the truth about downtown: downtown Rockford is being revitalized, and people do come downtown and enjoy themselves.
Putting parking meters downtown will only give hesitant residents a reason, a talking point, for not coming downtown.
As for those that say “Chicago has parking meters, why can’t we?” Again, Rockford is not Chicago.
I work in Chicago and listen to the news and in person from associates how poorly Chicago’s new contracted parking meter system is working out. Why emulate a system that irritates residents?
Chicago benefits from visitors who have to go there, for work, for business meetings, deliveries and the like. Chicago is also a tourist destination where visitors are expecting to pay a premium for certain services. I don’t think our soccer, softball and basketball tourney tourists are expecting to pay a premium when they come to Rockford for their events.
So, keep local business owners, residents and our all-important tourists happy by not installing parking meters. Let the City of Rockford’s “Meeter” slogan be: drive into Rockford on smooth roads with free parking. Then, get to work on smoothing the roads.
Paul Gorski (http://www.paulgorski.com) is a Cherry Valley Township resident who also authors the Tech-Friendly column seen in this newspaper.
From the June 19-25, 2013, issue