Wise Parking Move

The Mayor and Council’s decision to repeal the paid parking ordinance that expanded metered spaces in Ocean City was surprising, but it was the proper move in the big picture.
In deciding to immediately bag the meters in the new areas, the council essentially acquiesced to the 1,600-plus individuals who signed the parking petition. It doing so, the council decided there was no need for a referendum to further gauge input.
Councilman Joe Mitrecic said the petition’s resounding success sent the council a clear message about the recent paid parking expansion that could not be ignored.
“We are listening to the majority of Ocean City voters who signed this petition. The last time there was this much division in our town was about two years ago and the then sitting council refused to listen. We do not want to be compared to them,” he said.
What was interesting was the vote to repeal the ordinance was 5-2 and that’s baffling. Clearly, political divisiveness has taken root at City Hall, and that is stifling common sense and rational decision making.
Even most of the petition organizers, who have been privately and publicly bashing the majority of the council for months, applauded the council’s decision to immediately abandon the new areas and Mayor Rick Meehan’s pledge to veto any future ordinances that add paid parking to city streets.
Once the decision was made to repeal the ordinance, the concept of holding a referendum was moot. The goal was accomplished. The paid parking areas were lifted and returned to being free, and this council essentially admitted the move hurt and divided the community.
Although the timing of the last week of the peak season raised some eyebrows, the move, nonetheless, was made as soon as the petition signatures were verified. The Elections Board clearly proved there was no funny business behind the delay in ratifying the signatures.
This process also proved government is not always right. The council believed adding meters to selected streets and city parking lots would raise the necessary revenue to fill a budget gap while impacting the fewest residents and businesses.
We do feel paying to park is a user fee that is not out of line for visitors and residents. However, it has to be done in an appropriate fashion and in logical places. We do not think all paid parking is rotten, but the last few months have confirmed it has to be handled with kid gloves.
At most New Jersey resorts, people have to pay to use the beach. That’s a policy foreign to Ocean City and one that will presumably never be adopted here. Conversely, in a general sense, we do not think paying to park near the beach is out of line. It just depends on where apparently.
In this case, at least, the right decision was made to return the new areas to free parking because this issue was one of the most divisive in recent memory and drove a wedge between the citizens and impacted businesses and the city.