I am writing this letter to address the predatorial nature of parking violations that exist in the Downtown Westfield area by Parking Enforcement. The true, intended purposes of parking meters, to name a few, are to ensure turnover or availability of space, social engineering of human habits for various desirable reasons, and to offer shoppers the opportunity to park while simultaneously discouraging shop employees from hoarding these same spots for the sake of business sustainability.
However, in Westfield’s case as well as many other towns, these more altruistic reasons are now a very transparent veil for the true reason of parking meters. The truth is that they provide a consistent and fairly large revenue stream that the town has come to heavily rely upon no matter the consequences. Worse yet, they actually savor being able to issue a corpulent amount of parking tickets given the huge marginal benefit it provides relative to the meter payments themselves.
In the case of Westfield, as I have personally witnessed, the hawkish nature of what seems like an ever-expanding parking enforcement literally hovering over street meters at times waiting for them to expire has continued to create a hostile public downtown environment not only to shoppers, but to residents of the town, as well. While our fairly sizeable vacancy rate of downtown retail locations can be blamed on several factors, incongruent interests of business owners and the parking meter/violations coffers are fairly high on that list as well. These meters and violations also further help consumers move away from bricks and mortar to the Amazon’s of the world. After all, the price of a year of Amazon Prime is only equal to about three parking violations. Violations also does not include streaming service for shows like Transparent or The Patriot, just screaming service.
What is especially troubling about parking meters is that they are placed on public streets. Public, by definition, means that no one entity or person owns it and thus a city cannot charge a person for using something that everyone owns. Yet, here I was, standing within several feet of my car, speaking to a fellow resident of Westfield. When I looked over at the time my meter expired, a Parking Enforcement officer was already attached to my meter like a town-paid Remora sucking the money out of my wallet by virtue of his, might I dare say, overly efficient mobile tablet and hip printer slung around his waist like an Adam West-era Batman Utility belt. He did not even take the common courtesy to look around him to first see a guy holding his keys nor care to ask if this was my car. When I made him aware, he gleefully first hit the button on his money vacuum machine then said, “Sorry. It’s already entered into the system.” Wham, Pow!!
Arriving at the police station by that same car six minutes later to protest, I received the answer that I would have to plead innocent and challenge it in court. Thirty-two dollars is over 42 times what I already paid the meter, but not enough money to make most people challenge these tickets in court as it has to be done in person. And this is what the town banks on time after time.
Finally, I would like to meter out a little advice to our Parking Enforcement. I understand you have a job to do but when you do it in a rapacious manner without common sense or moral character, especially when consciously profiling newer or more expensive vehicles, you are no higher than the gutter you walk in daily.