Parking meter extension proposal sent to Prop A committee

We sure do live in a different world now.

City Council voted on Wednesday to send a proposal extending parking meter enforcement times to committee following a clash between council members who introduced the agenda item and those who expressed concerns about the potential consequences in their districts.

Council Members Edward Pollard and Tiffany Thomas, who brought the item forward under Proposition A – which allows any three council members to put an item on the agenda – were among the four who voted against sending it to committee in a 13-4 vote. Council Member Fred Flickinger, the third member who sponsored the agenda item, voted to send it to committee.

The current city ordinance requires people to pay for city parking meters between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday, with free parking on Sunday. The proposed change would extend the payment enforcement period from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., Monday through Saturday.

The agenda item was tagged by Pollard last week after his other proposal about adding speeding bumps was sent to committee. Council Members Joaquin Martinez and Mario Castillo, who represent parts of the city with the highest concentration of parking meters, championed the motion Wednesday to send the proposal to the Proposition A Committee, which Mayor John Whitmire created to help members vet and refine their proposals.

The freshmen council members explained that they were given little notice of the original proposal before it was added to the agenda last week, and they needed time to contact key stakeholders in their districts to better understand the potential impacts of the proposal.

“You’re impacting the whole business district, and you’re not even talking to them about what you want to do,” Martinez said Friday.


Pollard told council Wednesday that sending the proposal to committee would violate the process approved by voters under Proposition A, which does not mandate council proposals go through committee before being added to council agendas.

“Now (if) the items that are brought forward are not supported by council, then you can vote it down,” Pollard said. “You can delay it. You can tag it. That’s your prerogative, like every other agenda item that may come to us. But to send them to a committee … I think is going against the will of the voters.”

Castillo argued that all proposals – even if brought under the new charter amendment – may be tagged, delayed or referred to committees.

“There’s no automatic requirement that everything brought to council via Prop A will go to a committee, and I’m sure there will be examples in circumstances where we bring items to council and they get passed or they get voted down directly,” Castillo said. “But this clearly needs more work.”

See here for more on the parking meter proposal, and Prop A committee. On the latter, I don’t remember the wording of Prop A from last year’s ballot. Looking back on the coverage in the leadup to the election, it was presented as “three Council members can put an item on the agenda for Council to vote on” – however the actual proposition was worded, I’m pretty sure it didn’t say anything about going through a committee first. But if a majority of City Council votes to send it to a committee for further consideration, I don’t see how that violates the letter or the spirit of the ordinance. It was never promised that any of these items would get passed, just that they’d be considered.

For sure, this opens up the possibility of shenanigans – delays, roadblocks, major changes, and so on. But that’s a normal part of the process, and again there was never a guarantee that these items would succeed. They still need a majority to vote for them, and if such a majority exists I doubt they’ll be truly blocked. And since my initial concern about Prop A was its potential for rogue Council members to put divisive time-wasting items on the agenda, I’m fine with there being an outlet to corral that. So far Prop A has been used for substantial items – they may or may not get adopted, but they have been worth discussing. If we get to a point where something that would pass if it could ever get out of committee fails to come for a vote, then we’ve got a problem. Until then, we’re figuring this out and we’ll see how it goes.

As for the parking meter extension itself, my initial reaction was to the idea that we were extending hours from 10 PM to 2 AM, based on my experience with the meters in the City Hall parking lot, which we use for shows at the Hobby Center. I’m still fine with this proposal, but I understand the concerns expressed in the story about how it might affect downtown and the office maintenance workers who are there after business hours. I’m sure there are ways to mitigate some of that and guess what? That’s the sort of thing that can be brainstormed and sussed out in a committee hearing. A win all around, maybe. Like I said, we’ll see when and if this comes up for a final vote, and in what form.

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