Editorial: Democratize parking

Editorial: Democratize parking

Cartoon by Kyle Horne: @kylehorneart kylehorneart.com

Port Jefferson has a parking problem. This problem is not the fault of any one administration but the natural consequence of maintaining a bustling downtown with limited parking capacity. 

It is a problem that has been with Port Jeff for decades and may soon affect various other municipalities throughout the area. As the towns of Brookhaven, Smithtown and Huntington look to expand sewer capacity and revitalize downtowns, local leaders should learn from Port Jeff’s parking struggles.

In Port Jeff, as in other communities, parking decisions matter. Parking administration is an expression of a community’s values and priorities. Managing parking requires a delicate balancing act between the various stakeholders seeking access to the community — residents, visitors, shoppers, employees and business owners, among others.

At root, parking decisions are about equitable land use. For other land-use decisions, we have planning departments and zoning boards whose members negotiate and compromise before rendering judgment. We also have committees for various other areas of local governance, such as parks and recreation, communications, conservation and architectural review.

However, municipalities often lack committees for an issue as central as parking. Without a parking committee, parking management seems estranged from the political process, the community stakeholders lacking the forum necessary to translate their interests into sound policy.

Moreover, the existing dynamic is inequitable to those who make parking decisions. Without a committee to channel the community’s wants and needs, the burden of policy falls upon a select few. In Port Jeff’s case, the parking administrator unfairly bears the responsibility of making representative decisions for the entire community, suffering alone the slings and arrows from all competing parties. We regard this arrangement as increasingly untenable and ineffective.

History informs us that uniformity of opinion is not possible. For this reason, a functioning democratic system works to channel the many interests of the people into the political process. Only through that process can a representative policy outcome arise. Parking is no different.

We are committed to the premise that fair policies emerge from an open, deliberative process. It is, therefore, necessary for municipalities throughout our coverage area to form parking committees, opening the decision-making process to all concerned parties. Let us democratize parking here on Long Island. It’s vitally needed.