For several City Councillors, finding those little, orange $25 parking tickets on their windshields after a Council meeting has become a rite of passage.
Few councillors have escaped the parking ticket wrath during their tenure, and it pretty much has become a given that councillors who frequent City Hall meetings will come away with a backlog of tickets. Councillors have frequently been heard muttering under their breath about the fact that the City trusts them with important financial decisions, but not with a simple parking pass.
So it has been.
Now, first-term Councillor Giovanni Recupero is proposing to end what he calls a ridiculous state of affairs for public servants trying to do the people’s business.
And he’s found some allies on the Council, including Councillor Joe Perlatonda. Other councillors also appear to be on board as well.
Both Recupero and Perlatonda told the Record that they have proposed councillors get a four-hour pass to park in and around City Hall during Council Meetings or while on Council business. Both said that they were looking for something very minimal and didn’t want to create a controversial citywide free parking pass.
“I’m a working councillor so I come to City Hall all the time to check on things – pretty much every day,” Recupero said. “I come to do the people’s work. I’m not asking for a special privilege for all over the city. If I’m checking on things or at a meeting, it can take longer than you might expect. You can forget to come out and move your car or pay the meter. Sometimes you’re involved in a discussion and you can’t leave. If I’m at a meeting or doing the work of the people at City Hall, as a councillor I shouldn’t have to worry about getting $25 tickets all the time. It makes it hard to conduct city business.”
Perlatonda said he typically comes to City Hall at night and in the evenings. When he gets there, parking is minimal at best, and feeding the meter is often impossible during a Council meeting.
“If I come to City Hall at night, there’s nowhere for me to park,” he said. “I usually come straight from work in Cambridge, so there’s no time to go home and walk here. If I need to conduct official business, I have to park at a meter or on a side street and walk several blocks. Giovanni had proposed that we get a limited parking permit so we can park. My thing is why not take some spaces in the lot and set them aside for City Councillors during days when the City Council meets – when a councillor is on official City business. If it’s tough for us to do business here, it must be tough for everyone.”
City Manager Jay Ash is not entirely in favor of the idea, though he said he hasn’t seen any formal proposal from the Council. He indicated he also gets tickets and it’s something that City leaders could learn to avoid.
“I am also one who gets parking tickets regularly, and I pay them because I was at fault by violating our local parking rules, just like the hundreds of others who violate parking rules and similarly get ticketed,” he said. “Parking is often inconvenient, but there are many ways of avoiding tickets.”
Recupero countered opposition by indicating that School Committee members are afforded a placard so that they can park on school property when performing the work of their office. He said he is only looking for the same kind of accommodation, just a minimal pass so that he and other councillors don’t have to worry about getting parking tickets while they’re debating how to spend millions of dollars.
“School Committee members, as I understand it, can go to any school parking lot,” he said. “That’s their job and that’s a good thing. Our job is to work for the people at City Hall. How do we do that when we get hit with a ticket every other time we’re up there? For a working councillor, it’s needed.”
Perlatonda said there are many fixes he sees, comparing his experiences in working at the cramped Cambridge City Hall. He said, first of all, City vehicles and employee vehicles don’t need to be tying up spaces meant for the people, and secondly, the meters around City Hall should be shortened.
“I know everybody has a tough time parking,” he said. “Where I work at Cambridge City Hall, it’s first come, first serve. There’s six or so spaces and the City doesn’t provide parking for employees. Why should the City be providing parking for all employees? I don’t think that if a person is coming to do business at City Hall, it should be that there are no parking spaces available because City Hall employees, DPW trucks and police cars have taken all the spots.
“The meters also shouldn’t be 10-hour meters,” he added. “The City is actually losing revenue in that area because there is no turnover.”
The bottom line, both said, is that if it’s tough for them to come to City Hall, it must be even more difficult for their constituents.
“You come to City Hall and think it’s going to take an hour or so, and then it takes longer than that if you’re at a meeting or discussing something,” Perlatonda said. “Nobody wants a ticket, and it’s a frustrating experience to come out of City Hall and find tickets all the time.”