The Mayor and Councillors of the City of Georgetown (city council) have voted overwhelmingly to support a renegotiated contract for the establishment of parking meters in certain parts of the city. The major change is that the hourly rate has been reduced from $200 to $150 while an eight-hour day would cost $800. There were other minor revisions and concessions. The effect of the reduction by $50 an hour is like throwing a crumb to the citizenry.
The popular upsurge during last year against the imposition of parking meters was as a result of the high and unaffordable charges. It was pointed out that they were proportionately higher than parking meter charges in New York, a city that was 500 plus times wealthier than Georgetown where the charge for parking is US$1 an hour, the same as was proposed for Georgetown. While the protests were successful in derailing the plans of the city council, with little or no help from the government, there was also a legal element. Two cases were filed. One has been heard in which the court ruled that the bylaws were not lawfully promulgated by the Minister. This means that before the parking meter system can be reintroduced and fees charged, the bylaws have to be lawfully put in place by the Minister.
Despite the widespread protests last year, the government facilitated the imposition of the parking meters by promulgating the bylaws, albeit in an unlawful manner. And despite both the Minister of Finance and the Attorney General making fundamental criticisms of the contract, the government allowed it to proceed on the spurious grounds of non-interference in the affairs of the city council until, finally, public pressure and sentiment forced it to act. With this amended contract, the government’s short-sighted posture is likely to be the same, namely, it does not believe that it has a duty to protect the citizens of and visitors to Georgetown from an out of control city council which is determined to impose unbearable burdens on the city.
It is therefore necessary at this time to begin the campaign against both the government and the city council. The government must be persuaded that it is against the interests of the city to facilitate the imposition of the parking meter contract by enacting the bylaws. The city council must be once again persuaded that it must finally terminate all relationship with Smart City Solutions (SCS) and start over. SCS and its principals are first world operators with equipment and systems that are geared for large cities like Mexico City. Being as sophisticated as they are, when SCS deploys them in Georgetown, they will lose unless they charge the fees that are commensurate with the sophistication of the parking meter systems. Unfortunately, the city council cannot see that they have contracted a Cadillac style parking meter system for a city in which transportation of goods (and sometimes people) by horse drawn carts still features.
The MAPM movement may wish to consider what steps it may begin to take to start building momentum and mobilizing the city. Its campaign last year was an innovative model which introduced new elements in the concept of mass struggle. Each such struggle is of course different. In this case, the nature of the campaign was determined by the issue, the location and the potential protesters to be attracted. A lunch hour, once a week event, did not diminish its impact. Eschewing the hurling of verbal slogans at City Hall allowed engagements among protesters and an atmosphere of camaraderie to develop. While all of these elements came together to make the campaign a success, the most important was the justice of the cause which was, inevitably, the most important mobilizing factor.
The past experience demonstrates that the manifest unfairness of the contract will not move the Government to use its authority or influence against the renewed imposition of the parking meters. It also shows that the City Council will not be moved by the clear unaffordability of the parking fees, already seen in its overwhelming support for the contract. The people of Georgetown will therefore face a major struggle in the coming months against the reintroduction of parking meters. The tenacity with which the city council is pursuing this matter should be an indication to MAPM that the struggle this time around will be longer and far more difficult. The people of Georgetown must be prepared.
The thousands of couples who work in Georgetown, who have children, a mortgage to pay and who can barely afford a car, would have been unable to pay the parking fees under the earlier dispensation, and at $16,000 a month, would be unable to pay it at the new rate. They would, like on the last occasion, park their vehicles outside the parking meter zone and walk the short distance to work. The car owner can do this indefinitely. SCS and the city council cannot endure it for a sustained period.