Opinion » Maxed Out

The light goes on for paid parking

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People, please, can't we all just get along? The tenor in Tiny Town is getting tumultuous. The streets are filling with angry people. It's all taking on an air of Tehran north, without, of course, the charismatic whackos leading the whole place. If this keeps up the gutters will be running red with the blood of protesters. Okay, maybe that's a bit harsh. But there's every likelihood that if this keeps up someone's going to get called hurtful names... and you know how easily that can escalate to sticks and stones.

Where are the cooler heads? Where are the voices of reason? Oh sure, some of you say they've been lost in the impenetrable fog of transparent government. That they've been co-opted by our various "partners." That some of our partners are the kinds of people our parents warned us about hanging around with. "I suppose you'd jump off a bridge just because your little friend VANOC built it," I can almost hear them say, finger a-waggin'.

But just because our friends may, that's may be leading us down the road to rack and ruin, there's no reason to be, well, ugly towards the very people - outstanding gentlemen all - we so gleefully elected less than a year ago to keep us from taking that very road. I'm sure, to quote the deeply thoughtful and wise councillor Ralph, "... they have their reasons." Of course, Ralph said that about the new B.C. Transit terminal being built on the moonscape north of Nesters, the one we're on the hook for paying, what was it, most of the cost of, the one they won't tell us how much it's going to cost notwithstanding they're closer to being finished than they are to starting. Kind of reminds you of a government project, eh? What's that? It is a government project? Well, that certainly blunts the joke, doesn't it?

But hey, they're our partners. The ones who told us to put our concerns where the sun don't shine when we politely pointed out to them they'd chosen a site many of us - particularly the critters who lived there - considered an environmentally sensitive one. Let's be reasonable here; it's not like we're paying 60 per cent of the construction costs. It's not like we're going to be stuck owning the facility after it's built... or even going halvsies on it. This is how public-public partnerships work. They're doing us a favour people; let's be a little more considerate.

In fact, let's be a lot more considerate. Let's try and get all Coke commercial, teach the world to sing, pull down each other's pants and fill our bellies with pure, organic high-fructose corn syrup. No more petitions. No more whining about property tax increases, pay-to-play tax increases, pay parking tax increases, Olympic high-handedness, spending like drunken sailors - apologies sailors everywhere; have a Coke on us - or council and staff being insensitive to the tenuous fiscal hold many of us have on life during these days of plenty. "What, the poor bastards don't get automatic pay increases? Oh the humanity!"

Just last week someone told me a scandalous story about how Mayor Kenny and council's headlong rush to embrace paid parking reminded him of an old joke. Like a fool, I took the bait. "Which old joke is that?" I said, stifling my peeve about the slander to come but nonetheless loving a good joke.

"The one about the drunk down on all fours..."

"Hold on right there, Mister," I said. "This is a family newsmagazine. No dirty jokes."

"...on all fours," he continued winking slyly, "underneath a street light in the early hours of the morning. Cop comes along and says, 'And just what may you be doing down there?'

"Drunk looks up and says, 'Looking for my house keys, offisher.'

"Cop, being characteristically helpful - though keeping one hand firmly on his Taser just in case the drunk is carrying a concealed stapler - gets down on all fours as well and says, 'I'll help you; where'd you drop them?'

"Drunk says, 'Around the corner in front of my house.'

"The cop gives him a puzzled look, simultaneously steeling his grip on the Taser, and says, 'Then why are we looking for them here?'

"Drunk looks at him and says, 'The light's better here.'"

I looked at him with something approaching the same contempt that drunk must have felt. "That's a pretty good joke, for a clean one," I said. "But what the heck does it have to do with paid parking?"

"The drunk's looking for his keys some place he's never going to find them because it's easier looking there than it is in the dark where he dropped them."

"Yeah, I get that part. So."

"Kenny and council are pushing paid parking because it's easier than actually cutting some of their spending to get the budget deficit under control. Get it?"

I thought carefully before answering, even counting to 10 because I feared saying something I might regret. "That's despicable," I finally said. "You're impugning what can only be considered the purest of motives. Paid parking isn't about a tax grab. I demand you retract that slur and I've half a mind to insist you apologize."

"It was only a joke," he said lamely, implicitly denying Freud's hypothesis that jokes were simply redirected hostility. "You can't possibly defend paid parking."

"Of course I can," I replied.

"Oh really," he shot back. "Well, name me five reasons paid parking is a good thing."

Rising to the challenge, I quickly pointed out the obvious. "Because it'll get more people taking transit," I said, echoing the mayor's main selling point. "Yeah, I know it won't do anything to get the day-trippers out of their cars or help the poor schmucks working in the village bars and restaurants until all hours... or the commuters from Squampton. But someone's going to think about taking the bus instead of being dinged for parking, inconvenience notwithstanding."

"That's one," he sneered, grudgingly.

I thought for a moment. "It'll be good for business at Marketplace and Creekside where the indolent, lazy... car-drivers will refocus their unnecessary, polluting SUV trips, leaving the village relatively uncrowded for those of us virtuous enough to take transit."

I was on a roll.

"For that matter, it'll be good for Squamish's growing stripmall, big-box culture. Those whose hearts aren't pure will shop down there where parking is free and morals loose."

"It'll make all those people driving up here from Vancouver for a day's skiing or golfing or sightseeing or whatever feel proud to pay an extra 12 bucks knowing they're helping a local take transit. Almost like buying a carbon offset."

"That's four," he said, rolling his eyes.

"I'll get back to you with the fifth," I said, dashing off. "My two hours under the conference centre are up."