by Max Brantley
Here's another article in today's Democrat-Gazette worthy of comment, though it's not available on their free site. It's about the various ideas under consideration to provide free parking to all county employees.
No word is given to a worthy alternative -- doing nothing, rather than sticking taxpayers with the huge cost of paying for convenient free parking for a largely desk-bound workforce. Sounds Grinch-like, I know.
But I am reminded of when, to keep the Dept. of Human Services downtown, nothing would do but to build a huge parking garage, with enclosed walkway, so the giant office force could commute from faraway places and never set foot on the actual earth of LR before returning to those faraway suburbs. It was an insult the rest of us who work downtown, I always thought.
If government would stop continuing to provide aid and comfort to the commuter crowd -- with ever widening expressways, utility and other infrastructure subsidies for sprawling suburbs and free parking for ever-expanding government work forces -- perhaps people would make different, energy-efficient lifestyle choices. They might live closer to work and walk or ride a bike. Or use public transit. And if they didn't want to do that, well, fine, they can subsidize their lifestyles themselves.
What government also forgets in looking after its employees -- many not highly paid but all beneficiaries of better holiday provisions, health insurance and pension coverage than most private employees -- is the lot of private employees. I suspect my company is typical, maybe even more benevolent than most. We have 50 people in a building with no free parking spaces. We pay for about a dozen spaces for the people who are in and out of the office most often during the course of the day, sales people primarily. Everyone else is on their own. I pay for a deck spot a block or so away. Some park in the handful of free spaces available within a four-block radius. We have a walker from a downtown apartment. We've had bike commuters and the occasional bus commuter. When convenience demands that we park close to the building to dash in for a moment, we pay the inevitable parking tickets.
Why should it be different for a government workforce? The last thing county government needs is a vast sea of parking spaces downtown, such as at the state Capitol, that empties in a rush to faraway places every afternoon on the stroke of 4:30.