Go Free Park Yourself

I remember a simpler time in Salt Lake. A time when a fella would have to buy a temporary membership at a bar to get a drink, took in a game at the Delta Center and purchase every household object under the sun at Fred Meyer. A time before City Creek, TRAX, decent pizza and microbrews with over 9.7% alcohol—thanks Hop Rising. It was when Jerry Sloan was God and you could walk up Main Street without having to go through Temple Square. The Olympics were years away but the town was rushing to greet the world and newspaper was king. These were the halcyon days when Hot Rod Hunley called out Stockton to Malone in a Scotch soaked voice and Brokeback Mountain didn’t threaten Larry H. Miller.

I was just a fresh-faced kid from Nevada getting off that fateful Southwest flight. I was met by a crowd of people welcoming return missionaries at the gate with butcher paper signs and balloons—imagine the logistics and length of jail time at Guantanamo with you tried to get balloons past a TSA checkpoint? I was leaving behind a life as a Las Vegan and joining the ranks of the Salt Lakers. Scared? Yes. Excited? You better believe it.

What was going to be an 18-month sojourn turned into a 14-year odyssey. While there have been setbacks and disappointments during this run, the one consistent has been that Salt Lake City is a good town. Rich in opportunities and a very fine place to live, Salt Lake benefits mostly from outsiders not understanding the unique culture.

Bad place to get a drink? Fine, more Big Cottonwood Ale and High West Son of Bourye for the rest of us. Colorado has better skiing? Keep telling yourself that except from my front door to Brighton lifts is under 35-minutes. Bad fishing or hiking? The Provo River is one of the best in the world and the Uintas are God’s country. Besides that, we still have car washes, supermarkets, movie theaters, AAA baseball and everything else people need to get through their lives. I used to call it the Blockbuster Effect in that you want to live in a town that is unique but at the end of the day you can still go to a Blockbuster. I guess I’ll just settle with the Taco Bell Constant or some other big box analogy.

In addition to having some sort of festival throughout the spring through fall, Salt Lake is growing. We’re putting in a new trolley car system to Sugarhouse and downtown is booming. It took what seemed like a decade to get City Creek open but they pulled it off—and in fairness, it’s awesome. It’s a great shopping center. If they had thrown in a couple of bars, City Creek would rival San Diego’s Gaslamp District.

Now that my reminiscing hat is on firmly, I’d like to fondly remember a time when a young rabble-rouser named Rocky Anderson ran this town. Rocky was kooky mayor with a $3 haircut but that man knew a thing or two about getting folks downtown during the holiday season. When he wasn’t burning the American flag or pushing Salt Lake down a liberal rabbit hole even Cesar Chavez would take issue with, Rocky decided that the scourge called parking enforcement should hibernate during December.

Free parking to get folks to come downtown to enjoy the Xmas lights and spend money at the shops and restaurants that are vital for a town to be called a great city. Rocky even put up cute ribbons around the parking meters. It was a thank you to the citizens to get downtown and enjoy what this great city has to offer.

Today, we have an equally nutty mayor who spent what has to be a gazillion dollars on a parking system that requires a debit card and a PhD in computer science to use. Faceless and thuggish looking, these tower of parking power are confusing and have completely taken away a cherished memory of free downtown parking during the holiday season. Instead of downtown enjoying the festive music of free parking, it suffers to the soundtrack of blue storm troopers yelling Black Sabbath’s “The Thrill of It All.”

This isn’t complaining for the sake of complaining. I am well aware that I enjoy whining to both hear my voice and get a reaction out of people. Parking in downtown Salt Lake has gotten to the point where we should be taking pick axes and bulldozers to animatronic Nazis. I’ve been burned twice this year on parking to a cost of $145. Money that should be going towards high point beers or local whiskeys are lining the fat wallets of Ralph Becker and his eCigar smoking cronies.

It’s the same thing over and over again—tripping over bundles of cash to pick up nickels. Sales tax would certainly match any money made on the parking meters and frankly, shouldn’t the city be double downing their efforts to bust DUIs instead of folks exceeding a two hour park time? It’s bad enough it cost $2 to park for an hour and the machines don’t take cash.

I say lumps of coal in the Mayor’s stocking this year. I’m a tax paying, property owning citizen in this community. When did the city decide they owned the space next to the sidewalks? It is bupkis that parking has gotten so out of hand downtown that I’d rather buy my presents via the internet. Want a vivacious community, give the folks an extra incentive to brave the bone chilling temperatures of downtown and put some monies into the community.

Rocky was crazy but Becker is just plain greedy. For shame! Shame on City Hall for not continuing a great tradition and focusing their energies on extracting another shekel from my pocket.

Ben Raskin bartends at Keys On Main Wednesday through Saturday. Follow him on Twitter @BennyRaskin. Podcast a’coming. He actually interned with Rocky Anderson in 2006 and has a picture to prove it.

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