Parking problems



The stomach grumbled as we circled the block for a fifth time trying to find a parking spot on Lake Avenue anywhere close to one of our favorite sandwich shops. Most people would have driven off to a fast food joint, but we like the owner of this little coffee shop because he is so darned friendly and he advertises with us — Topiz Martinez at Better Day Café. So we kept circling O’Hare looking for a spot to land.

Meantime, we noticed guys loading and unloading the trunk of their car, which sits there all day. Another car has a basket of laundry sitting on the hood. The folks upstairs park their cars in front of the street-level businesses. Employees park there, too. It drives business owners crazy. Mike Rust tells his renters they cannot park on Lake Avenue. He has boots to sell. It’s tough enough making a living hawking sandwiches and coffee or selling quilts or uniforms without having a place for customers to park.

Would that all landlords force their renters to park in the city lots a block away. And would that the employees listen to the boss and not park in front of somebody else’s business. But they don’t, not all of them. And some of the renters don’t have enough sense or just don’t care.

This has been a problem since cars and stores were invented. No chamber of commerce can solve it. Parking meters can, but everybody hates them. We ripped them out years ago. The store owner can’t always complain to the landlord, and the landlord can’t always control the renter for whatever reason.

That’s why we have to write rules and enforce them. At least, occasionally.

We would suggest one-hour parking limits on Lake Avenue. Post signs. We don’t suggest that the police need to prioritize its enforcement. But when they are on patrol and see the same car parked in the same place after four hours or so, the car could get its tire marked and then a ticket. At least the renter or employee could show the initiative to move it every hour or so to allow us to sneak in. It works that way in other places, at least.

We regulate the sidewalks, prohibiting sidewalk sales and cafés and boozing. No news racks are allowed on downtown sidewalks. Those ordinances, if violated, will be enforced. The snow parking ban is enforced. It’s a hassle for street and police employees, but it is enforced. So can a one- or two-hour parking ban. After one or two tickets, the parking problem would be solved.

Unfortunately, many of these needless jobs end up getting dumped on the police. Once we get our downtown garbage problem solved, and have shot all the crows and cleared all the junk out of the neighbor’s back yard near the alley, the police might have time to mark a tire or two once a week, even, to get the message across that you shouldn’t park all day on Lake Avenue.

Park all day on Railroad Street if you would like. Just not near our dumpster. And not in our customer parking spot. The publisher will be after you.

Merging forward

We’re not crazy about rural school mergers, but it was gratifying nonetheless to see voters from Alta and Aurelia approve full-on merger after many years of whole-grade sharing. It can’t be easy especially for old Bulldog Lynn Evans, superintendent of schools, to see either district merged with another. But it is to the benefit of the taxpayer and the student. Money is saved and curricula can be offered that a tiny district cannot afford on its own, no matter how much fiber optic cable you can lay. Evans deserves credit for helping manage the process to its ultimate success.

Alta and Aurelia were the staunchest of rivals at one time. Sports brought them together for a time. And then together again, until now, when old divisions among cousins are put aside for the betterment of all.

Likewise eventually it will go with Laurens-Marathon and Pocahontas Area. Their sharing starts in fits and will mature into whole-system sharing and merger someday. Marathon might petition out to join Sioux Central, as Albert City-Truesdale already has. We could see a merged district covering the north half of the county. That’s why Sioux Central voters were wise last Tuesday to approve an instructional support levy to keep its program moving ahead.

The state is helping to starve rural school districts, even ones that could be sustainable (such as Sioux Central or Newell-Fonda) were it not for the persistent lack of state appropriation growth. When you starve schools, you weaken rural communities and eventually force the school to merge with another, which weakens the rural community even more. That is the cycle rural Iowa is in, but it is encouraging to see voters march ahead despite the lack of state vision.