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Meehan yet to sign new parking ordinance

(June 14, 2013) Like some sort of ghostly lollipops, the signs proclaiming City Hall’s new parking fees have remained wrapped in black plastic trash bags this week, as Mayor Rick Meehan has not yet signed into law the city’s controversial ordinance for additional paid parking.

“I haven’t made up my mind yet,” Meehan said this week in regards to what his action will be. “I’ve gotten a lot of feedback.”

The concealment of the city’s new parking apparatus is apparently the result of a complaint received by Councilman Brent Ashley, who said at this week’s City Council meeting that he had been alerted that paid parking was in effect the Thursday after the ordinance was passed.

However, Ashley said, he had not yet received the usual notice that the ordinance had been signed and registered, and thus called City Hall the next day to confirm that the new parking ordinance was a done deal.

After contacting the office of the city solicitor, he discovered that the law had not been signed. The Cale-brand ticket meter was immediately covered with the usual canvas bag, and the new signage received their post-industrial prophylactics.

City Clerk Kelly Allmond said she had begun parking collection last Thursday with the expectation that the ordinance had been finalized.

“When the council made the final vote, we took that as the go-ahead,” Allmond said, noting that the veto power is rarely used.

Ashley requested at this week’s council meeting that any money collected in the span between when the meter was turned on Thursday and when it was bagged Friday be returned to the payers.

“It looks like we collected a total of $4.50 from two users,” Allmond said this week. “Unfortunately, I don’t know that there’s any way to figure out who they were and give it back.”

Under the city’s charter, Meehan has until June 19 to make his decision. Under section 410, the Mayor has 15 days to return a passed ordinance to the City Clerk, including the date on which it is approved by council and the date on which the Mayor’s decision is returned, but excluding Sundays. The ordinance was passed by a 5-to-2 vote of council on June 3.

If Meehan were to simply not return the ordinance within the time limit, it would become law – the city has no provision for what is known at the federal level as a ‘pocket veto.’ In order to prevent the law, Meehan would have to actively veto the ordinance within 15 days. The veto could subsequently be overridden only with a six-vote majority of council.

Under the ordinance, the city would add Cale machines to the ocean block of 146th and 49th Streets, the stretch of 131st Street between Coastal Highway and Sinepuxent Avenue, and the west side of Philadelphia Avenue below the Route 50 bridge. Meters would also go into the municipal lots at City Hall and the 65th Street Public Safety Building.

Metering of the latter two lots has caused little disturbance, but there has been considerable public outcry about the metering of street parking, especially from adjacent property owners who claim the move will be counterproductive.

The selected streets were initially identified by the city as “low-hanging fruit” where paid parking could be implemented with the least impact on the neighborhood’s street usage due to what is believed to be a heavy rotation of non-overnight or commercial visitors.

But residents and business owners have objected to the town’s attempt to reap more revenue from day-vacationers, as has been the rationale. They also claim that the limited selection of streets was arbitrary, and had more to do with politics than revenue. The parking additions are expected to bring an extra $150,000 to the city’s coffers.

Once the ordinance goes into effect – either with or without Meehan’s approval – opponents would have three days to notify the city that they plan to petition to ordinance to referendum.

After the language of the petition is approved by the City Solicitor, opponents would have 40 days to collect the signatures of 40 percent of the number of voters who participated in the last municipal election.

Given that 3,064 people voted in the November 2012 city contest, a petition would require 1,226 voters in order to stay the ordinance until it could be put to referendum in the next election, or in a special election.

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