This past Wednesday, Baltimore City's Land Use and Transportation Committee passed out of committee Council Bill 14-0397, Hampden Residential Permit Parking.
And while this is singularly the most unpopular piece of Hampden legislation I've ever seen make its way though Council, it seems likely that this will become law. Here's how that happens.
A small group of residents have parking complaints. However, since they don't have enough signatures to follow the established procedures to get Residential Permit Parking via the Parking Authority, they have to get a City Council member to sponsor legislation.
In this case, Councilperson Mary Pat Clarke, whose intent started with a desire to help residents, crafts a custom piece of legislation for a minority of residents. And since the initial meetings to create this legislation only involved that minority, what came out of it was a flawed piece of legislation. Specifically, the most draconian parking restrictions in Hampden - where, unless you are a resident who can afford to purchase and/or take the time to get a permit every year, you can only park in the area for one hour a day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That means if you live in this area, you won't be having holiday parties. Your kids won't be having any birthday parties at your house. There will be no back yard cookouts for you and your friends. You can't have overnight guests (unless you also purchase a guest permit). Oh, and if you have the misfortune of living a block or two away from where this RPP zone is going, you get to have nearly three times as many cars parking on your street - your block's usual parking, the parking from the folks ineligible to get parking permits (visitors), and the parking from residents who never get permits.
What we are left with is a vicious piece of legislation that was crafted more out of a punitive attitude towards a neighborhood that has become popular, that was crafted more out of a sense of xenophobia, that was crafted more out of an irrational sense of entitlement, that was crafted more out of a sense of nostalgia for a neighborhood that never really was than out of practicality, common sense or pragmatism. It is a bill that will only create more parking problems for many, and make a few pay for a pass and a chance to park where they once parked for free.
Once public hearings were had and the community at large started voicing its increasingly louder opposition to the legislation, the handful of residents who were the catalyst for this responded with a "why are these people here? Why do they think they have anything to say?" attitude. In order to try to cover their tracks, proponents sent out organizers trying to, retroactively, get signatures on a very flawed and stilted petition. Still, some blocks refused to sign on.
Along this process, the Hampden Community Council voted overwhelmingly to oppose the bill. The Hampden Village Merchants Association voted to overwhelmingly to oppose the bill. And a petition circulated throughout the neighborhood garnered over 900 signatures in opposition to the bill.
But still the bill was introduced to the Baltimore City Council's Land Use and Transportation Committee. During the hearing, 7 people testified in favor of the legislation and 14 people testified in opposition to the legislation. But it being passed out of committee was already a foregone conclusion, making its passage in general council all too likely.
The reason why this passed out of committee was because it was a piece of legislation introduced by a councilperson that deals specifically with that representative's district (and the one right next to it). So, out of collegial courtesy, it gets a yes vote out of committee by members. In this case with the one exception being Nick Mosby, whose district is right next to this one and as a result, will feel the effects of RPP (and has subsequently been overwhelmed by calls and emails asking him not to support it).
Pending any delays, the City Council is slated to hear and give a second vote (the vote that actually counts) to this bill on Monday, February 2 with a third and final vote (largely ceremonial) on February 9. The collegial courtesy that we saw in the Land Use Committee will also take place during this council votes. Meaning, unless pressured to do otherwise, the council will default to a "Yes" vote.
And that is how an incredibly flawed, and an incredibly unpopular piece of legislation custom-crafted to benefit a very small minority in the neighborhood while still having an impact on a significant portion of the neighborhood will come to pass. UNLESS...
The only way to stop this is by contacting every member of City Council and letting them know you need and expect them to vote against this legislation and why. But you need to do it now. The next City Council vote is scheduled for Monday, and each step this bill passes makes it all the more likely it will pass.
So don't delay. Please contact the City Council now and ask them to oppose Council Bill 14-0397, Hampden Residential Permit Parking. Below are their email addresses and phone numbers. Feel free to Tweet them and/or post on their Facebook wall too.
Bernard C. "Jack" Young
Room 400, City Hall
James B. Kraft
Room 503, City Hall
Brandon M. Scott
Room 525, City Hall
Room 553, City Hall
Room 502, City Hall
Rochelle "Rikki" Spector
Room 521, City Hall
Sharon Green Middleton
Room 516, City Hall
Room 513, City Hall
Room 518, City Hall
William "Pete" Welch
Room 532, City Hall
Room 511, City Hall
Eric T. Costello
Room 527, City Hall
Room 509, City Hall
Room 505, City Hall
Mary Pat Clarke
Room 550, City Hall