Opinion| Get on With Parking Fees for City Employees

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Some councillors appeared to be wary Monday night of a motion presented by colleagues Matthew Shoemaker and Frank Fata that would have had staff bring council a proposal that would see municipal employees charged for parking at all city-owned buildings, including the Civic Centre.
They shouldn’t have been.
After all, probably the only people who will object are those who work for the city and maybe a few people who visit city hall regularly, if they, as I suspect, are included in the new policy.
As Shoemaker pointed out in the motion seconded by Fata, in looking at ways to modernize our downtown parking system the parking review committee had received significant feedback from residents, with many noting that Algoma University, Sault College, Sault Area Hospital, Ontario Lottery and Gaming, Group Health Centre and many other entities within the city charge employees for parking.
But council opted to take a slower route, asking staff to develop potential options on how and what municipal employees should pay for parking in municipal lots.
Chief Administrative Officer Al Horsman indicated that before any options or recommendations could be made, staff would have to look at the language in collective agreements.
But he also said staff from the community development and enterprise services would conduct the review, which would take until the fall to complete, and options could range from the status quo to employees paying the entire cost of maintaining the lots.
I can’t understand why it should take so long to get back to council. Surely the language in collective agreements could be read in a day. Once that is out of the way, surely it shouldn’t take all that long to come up with options, considering there won’t be that many beyond what the CAO already mentioned.
Of course, council won’t want to put the pressure on for a shorter time frame. That would be micro-managing, an anathema to this group.
I say get on with it.
In 2013, paid parking for employees was implemented at 11 Region of Waterloo sites.
Regional Coun. Sean Strickland said, “It’s not right for taxpayers to pay for employee parking.”
Mike Murray, chief administrative officer for the region, said, “The overall principle will be that the amount we recover from employees should pay the region’s total cost of providing that parking.”
He said for 2012 that cost would be about $1.1 million and would be paid for by property taxes.
“Now we’ll essentially have a new revenue source that will offset those costs,” he said.
The charges of $30-plus a month were to be phased in over two years.
“Paying for parking is also a broader trend among municipalities in Ontario,” Murray said in the CTV story.
And he hopes it could encourage more employees to carpool or take public transit.
So in case our councillors think they might be trail blazing, they aren’t.
They will simply be making the hard decision required by the hard times the city is facing.
Council Monday night passed Ward 3 Coun. Judy Hupponen’s motion calling for the amending of the city’s existing bylaw prohibiting wild or exotic animal exhibitions and performances in Sault Ste. Marie to include domestic animals.
But her amendment needs an amendment.
As I have pointed out in this column many times, bylaw 2012-13 as passed was flawed.
The heading on bylaw 2012-213 says it is a “bylaw to prohibit wild or exotic animal exhibitions and performances in the City of Sault Ste. Marie.”
But Sec. 2, titled Prohibition, says, “No person shall operate or carry on a public show, exhibition, performance or circus in which a wild or exotic animal is required to perform for the amusement or entertainment of an audience in any municipally owned facility or on municipally owned property.”
You will note the heading says “in the City of Sault Ste. Marie,” but the actual prohibition is only in facilities or on property owned by the city.
The bylaw was drafted after staff perused one passed by the Town of Cobourg in 2004. However, the Cobourg bylaw was specific in that the ban on animal acts was within the town, not just in town facilities or on town property, the loophole that remains in the Sault bylaw.
Since no one on council or staff has cared one whit about the error in the bylaw to this point, I won’t hold my breath expecting a change here.
But that will not stop me from hoping Hupponen and her wardmate and seconder, Shoemaker, will prove me wrong.
And I certainly agree with her call to amend the bylaw to include domestic animals.
However, I note from a story on SooToday that Hupponen provided assurances her motion wasn’t meant to exclude the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Musical Ride, kennel club or horse events.
I think she and council should be careful here.
Hupponen says in her motion that touring circuses cover thousands of mile a year, carrying animals from site to site in transports and cages, with their only respite being rehearsals or performing, and an animal is an animal regardless of whether it is classified as domestic or exotic.
Well, how does she think the horses in the Musical Ride get from place to place?
And where does the bylaw stand on another staple of horse use, rodeos?
I think there is a little more work to be done.
Doug Millroy can be reached at dmillroy@gmail.com.

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