Ambush Revenue Enhancement (parking at the Baltimore City Farmer’s Market)

On Sunday, we went down to the Baltimore City Farmers' Market, which is held under the Jones Falls Expressway downtown. We've been going for years; it's one of those things that has always exceeded expectations (which is increasingly rare in Baltimore).

And for years, everyone who's gone has assumed that the parking meters in the adjoining parking lot (a weekday commuter lot) were not in effect on Sunday–for ages, one of the remaining “blue laws” on the city's books made street parking free on the sabbath. Even with increasingly tight parking enforcement in the city, meters under the JFX were never enforced on Sunday; it was implied that the parking was free for those patronizing the farmers' market.

Well, this weekend, market-goers got a rude shock. As we parked, we saw a squad of contract parking enforcement agents writing tickets on cars for meter violations and various other infringements of parking regulations. It was a revenue-enhancement ambush.

Now, it would seem to me that if the city really wanted people to comply with meters and parking regs in the lot on Sunday, they would have at least given some notice. But it was clear that the city wasn't really concerned with citizen compliance–this was about padding out the budget at the end of the fiscal year. The meters, you see, are only a quarter for an hour–the tickets are for $20 or more. And if you don't pay the tickets, there's no limit to the late fines the city can impose on you. That's right–forget to pay a ticket for an exposed meter, and your fines could exceed the value of your car.

You can imagine how pissed off the dozens of people returning to find tickets on their windshields were. And Paula and I were just plain disgusted with the city's tactics. It's not like there's a public-transportation alternative to get to the Farmers' Market; and if anything, the market has thrived in spite of the city's neglect rather than because of anything the city has done for it. (I understand they raised the price of entry for farmers and merchants again this year.)

It's funny how our mayor is so big on multicultural messages, yet I've never seen him at the Farmers' Market–which is one of the only places you'll see this city's cultures elbow to elbow. In fact, the only place I *have* seen the Mayor with the masses is when he's playing with his band in a sleeveless T-shirt.

On the other hand, I ran into (well, not figuratively)Senator Barbara Mikulski at the newly-reopened Baltimore Conservatory in Druid Hill Park. The Parks Department has really done a great job there, and Sen. Mikulski was walking about on her own, checking out the payoff.

Zoë also loves the new “space net” climbing net nearby in Druid Hill; it's the first playground upgrade in years in the park, and it's almost as much public sculpture as climb-on equipment. The new swings are also a welcome addition. Now if they could only pay some attention to the Buena Vista playground and some of the other neglected small local parks…


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