In my second talk before the Amherst Select Board I presented a number of issues regarding parking.

Good evening members of the Select Board.  My name is Philip Garrow.  I am a long time Amherst resident, and I would like to talk to you tonight about legalizing parking here in Amherst.  In Amherst, there are 30,000 civil violations a year as a result of parking.  Every person parking in Amherst will inevitably receive a ticket.  One can only surmise that this activity is against the law.

The town of Amherst is sending a mixed message.  On the one hand it’s trying to support local businesses by giving them preferential tax rates at the expense of homeowners.  On the other hand it’s destroying the relationship between these businesses and their customers, with parking tickets.  Parking enforcement should manage this limited resource for the benefit of businesses and their customers.  It is abusive and destructive to both groups to use this management for fundraising.

Amherst used to be a real town, with hardware stores, local pharmacies, and a food market in the town center.  Now the only businesses that can survive in Amherst are those that cater to students: beauty parlors, restaurants supporting the meal plan, and now three tattoo and piercing parlors.  These businesses are successful because students can walk into town, avoiding the risk of getting ticketed or towed.

Today you are considering raising the parking fines again, for the purpose of fundraising for a bus route.  In the long term, more money can be made by supporting local businesses than by fining their customers.  A stronger business community could help to fund a bus route to bring in more patrons.  But in the arid business environment of Amherst, establishments are starved by the lack of town resources, including adequate parking.  Paul Boborwski, of the Amherst Planning Board, wrote that Amherst is anti-business.  Raising the parking fines, again, will make it even more so.  I strongly recommend against this increase.

Parking fines are not an innocuous tax.  When you ticket a person for parking in Amherst, you are doing more than just collecting an $8.00 fee, you are defining that person as a law breaker, both legally and emotionally.  Parking tickets contribute to the injustice that is Amherst.  The couple of hundred thousand dollars that you will raise with these fines will cost the town more in lost business than the income it will receive.  Last November I made a mistake and received a parking ticket.  I don’t make mistakes twice.  My partner and I used to go to dinner in town every week, now we go elsewhere.  That $8.00 ticket will now cost Amherst businesses over $3000.00 a year, in perpetuity.  How many of those $8.00 tickets can Amherst afford to issue?

Hearings officer, Clair McGinnis told me the only way to change parking enforcement is by community action.  To help her as best I can, I have submitted my application for the Parking Commission.  I have written two articles to the Amherst Bulletin with recommendations to the town, and I’ve built a nationally ranked web site about parking,

In support of my site many people have emailed me that they now do business elsewhere because they hate getting fined here.  One person now drives to Greenfield rather than being ticketed in Amherst.  They feel that Greenfield is more business friendly and community oriented than Amherst, which they describe as “a penny wise pound foolish greedy little town.”  Another person no longer volunteers for Amherst because of the parking tickets they received while helping out here.  After my last talk before the Select Board, fifteen people called supporting parking reform in Amherst.  A lot of people are upset about Amherst’s overzealous parking enforcement.

In the last year, two Judges in Louisiana ruled that it is unconstitutional for municipalities to use motor vehicle infractions as a form of fundraising.  Is it our intent here in Amherst to be less progressive than the Deep South?

The Parking Commission needs to be reappointed.  This committee could research how cities like Northampton and Springfield have received funding for parking structures other than issuing bonds as Amherst has done.  Further, without a Parking Commission Amherst cannot comply with its own parking regulations. There is simply no level of parking ticket or permit appeal between the Hearings Officer and the District Court.  The Select Board is simply not doing its job.

My goal is to reduce the number of parking tickets issued in Amherst by one-third, 10,000 tickets a year.  I see two ways to do this.  One way is to change the laws in Amherst, but since there is no Parking Commission, I don’t see this as an option.  The other way is to send all the parking violators elsewhere.

As part of my campaign, I’ve had bumper stickers printed.  These stickers will help alert patrons to the Select Board’s goals of fundraising.  I will provide these free to the Select Board in recognition of your work for the town.  Display this message proudly,  “Welcome to Amherst, We’ve Doubled Our Parking Fines!”  I’ve also provided gift certificates for Lucky’s Tattoo and Piercing so you can support the kind of business that Amherst now fosters.

In closing, together, we can destroy any business loyalty that people have developed for Amherst over the years.  The good will of Amherst patrons is priceless, so lets get rid if it.  Business patrons don’t have enough to worry about.  Let’s make them really count, every minute that they are here.

Thank you for your time this evening.