Hot Air, Cooled

The Battle of The Century

Steve Volan and I ran into each other Saturday afternoon on the mean streetcorner outside the Subway on Walnut Street.

The two us us immediately crouched in the ready-to-pounce position. I pulled out my switchblade. He picked up an empty beer bottle and broke the bottom off it. We circled each other as, from somewhere in the ether, the strains of Boy, Boy, Crazy Boy wafted over us.

Innocent bystanders recoiled and watched in silent terror. A child buried his face in his mother’s skirt. Strong men bit their lips.

Steve Volan took a tentative step toward me. I responded in kind. Then he made his big move.

“Before anything,” he said, “gimme a hug.”

We embraced.

And, like that, the battle of the young century was no more.

Yeah. Tall Steve and Big Mike are friends again. The mother held her child close and cried tears of joy. Those strong men gasped in relief.

The crisis ended, thankfully, without bloodshed.

If these contretemps swirled on without your knowledge, consider yourself fortunate. Many, many aware citizens slept fitfully Friday night, worrying about the future of our metrop. That is, if they were able to sleep at all.

Think of the damage that could be wrought by an all-out war waged between this worldwide communications colossus, The Electron Pencil, and the pride and joy of the Bloomington Common Council, the representative of District 6, the tallest statesman in local history, Steve Volan. Oh, the humanity!

Had enough of my operatic hyperbole? As of Friday night, Steve Volan, had had his fill.

I’ll admit it: I started it all.

And I’m more than happy to allow Steve to finish it. (For background see the Facebook thread that nearly blew up into a gruesome street battle; scroll down to the post that begins Steve Volan wants you….)

From Facebook

Steve posted a comment underneath the original EP post. I figure it’ll get bigger play if I reproduce it here. So, read away.

Well, I have to admit that the Pencil threw me for a loop with this post. Because for a while, I thought it was serious.

It isn’t, but quite a few people in Bloomington these days hold many of the hyperbolic opinions described…enough to make this post sound like news, when it was satire. Since the topic is so hot, I thought I’d untangle a couple of common misconceptions the Pencil’s hyperbole unintentionally alluded to.

First, the meters weren’t “the brainchild only of the mayor” et al. I’ve been advocating the return of meters to downtown for at least seven years. I say this not to brag — who wants to claim something so apparently toxic? — but so as to not leave the mayor and Public Works hanging out there by themselves. I take responsibility for being the most adamant supporter of the meters on Council, without shame. They are a necessary tool for the management of the most popular part of Bloomington.

Second, revenues from parking have never gone directly into the General Fund, but into a fund specifically for parking dollars. (During the recently completed 2014 budget process, Council approved creating a second fund: now garage dollars will go into one and meter dollars into the other.)

Is it significant that these dollars don’t go directly into the General Fund? It is…now that meter dollars will generate revenue in excess of the cost of parking operations. Use of those extra dollars for general purposes (other than strictly for parking operations) will require a vote of Council to transfer them to the General Fund.

The administration has publicly admitted that regulation was not the only goal of installing meters. Excess revenues was also a goal (just not the “sole” one, as EP said). That’s one reason why, yes, I’m planning to introduce legislation to form a Parking Commission: to give the downtown some more direct say in what those revenues will be used for. Because dollars generated downtown should stay downtown and be invested in downtown.

Another reason is to give the public a say on what meter rates should be. Should they all be $1/hr across the board all the time? I think they should vary with time of week and proximity to demand. We should want to optimize the city’s parking supply. That kind of optimization is complicated; there ought to be a body with members of the public — directly affected by such policies — dedicated to studying and thinking about how to set such rates.

If I seem touchy about all this, it’s because parking is about as touchy a subject as it gets these days. Everyone’s talking about it; on behalf of those that are touchy about it, I wanted to wade in here and clarify before things got hairy. Okay, Pencil, on with it.

So, there it is. The crisis has been relegated to the…, hey, wait a minute! Did he say I got things wrong in my original post? Why that dirty, no good…, where’s my switchblade?!

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