Downtown plans and parking to boot

Filed under: News |

Another beautiful spring day in downtown Colorado Springs – and all is right with the world.
Finishing a couple of errands, I’m strolling back to the office – and what do my wondering eyes behold? My car, parked at an expired meter, a ticket on the windshield … and a boot on the front tire.
It seemed that I had three unpaid parking tickets, and I owed the city $45, including late fees. So, to encourage me to pay up right away, they immobilized my beat-up Xterra, and provided me with a helpful yellow flyer that told me exactly what to do.
Step one: Don’t even think about removing the boot! Doing so might subject the perp (me) to all kinds of unpleasantness; theft and/or destruction of government property, failure to respond to a summons, unlawful flight across county lines to avoid prosecution, criminal conspiracy, failure to properly respect the august majesty of Parking Enforcement … bad things!
Step two: If you ever want to see your car again, get your rear down to the Municipal Court building and pay up! And by the way, don’t bring your checkbook or your credit cards – cash only!!
So I walked to the bank, got some cash, walked to the courthouse and paid up.
Amount due: $85. Three tickets: $45.
Booting charge: $40. What? I had to pay for the privilege of having my car booted? That’s like being arrested and being charged a $40 “handcuff fee.”
“Sir, which do you prefer, the painfully tight old-school cuffs for $40, or the newer, felt-lined Comfortcuffs for $50?”
I confess – I’m guilty. I spaced the tickets, I owed the money and the city’s entitled to collect it. But it seems to me that their method of collection is awkward, inefficient and, essentially, a misuse of government’s police powers.
Consider this: For a bill of $45, the city government has given itself the power to seize a vehicle of any value, and keep it until you pay up.
There’s no legal proceeding, no notification, no presumption of innocence – just the simple fact of seizure. Ask one of the 30-odd lawyers that work for the city attorney, and he/she will tell you that by simply parking in a metered space, you’ve consented to the whole seizure process.
Whether it’s an arrogant, disproportionate use of the police power of government is beside the point – it works.
But wouldn’t it be cleaner, simpler, fairer and just as efficient to use a slightly different procedure?
With a little intergovernmental cooperation, most overdue parking tickets could simply be collected when vehicle owners renewed their registration. That’d also enable cities to collect fines owed by non-residents.
Major scofflaws – folks who had accumulated, say, 15 or 20 overdue tickets could still be booted.
Such a program would reduce enforcement costs, collect more money and be vastly less irritating.
In the meantime, I’m heading for the space in the parking garage that the Business Journal thoughtfully provides for its employees.
Meanwhile, it’s interesting and even exhilarating to contemplate the changes that are coming to downtown, thanks to a new generation of developers.
Consider Buck Blessing, Ray O’Sullivan, Chris Jenkins, and Sam and Kathy Guadagnoli. With their various partners, the five of them control most of the undeveloped or underdeveloped property in the downtown core, as well as downtown’s periphery.
We’re not talking about half a dozen storefronts here – we’re looking at assemblages that, taken together, amount to several square blocks.
What’s going to happen? Are they going to tear down historic buildings and put up schlocky, soulless monuments to nothing, like the drab and dreary Colorado Square building that stands at the corner of Pikes Peak and Nevada avenues?
I don’t think so.
Having watched all of them for years, I’d guess that they’re going to do big, splashy, spectacular buildings that will delight everyone who sees them.
They’re all smart folks who love downtown’s energy, diversity and, most of all, its potential. And they’ve all got egos – they want their project to be the biggest, the coolest, the most successful.
They won’t hire dull-witted hacks to design their buildings, just because they’re cheap. Spurred by their competitors, they’ll go for the best – because that’s what the market will demand.
I ran into one of the Fearsome Five the other day on Tejon Street, and asked him what he thought of the newly unveiled plans of one of his competitors.
“Well” he sniffed, “Some people announce all kinds of things, and don’t do anything. Others announce things, and do something else entirely. We prefer to just go ahead and build, and let our project speak for us.”
So, I asked, when are you going to do something with that empty half-block in the heart of downtown?
He smiled. “No comment.”
The long-disappeared Victorian downtown of Colorado Springs – now only a sepia-toned memory – rose from the ground in less than a dozen years.
Maybe, after a century, we’re on the verge of another golden age, a re-created downtown alive with brilliantly conceived new buildings, shops, restaurants, bars, art galleries … and, of course, enlightened, boot-free government.
John Hazlehurst can be reached at john.hazlehurst@csbj.com or 634-3223.