by Dirty Marty
On Wednesday, January 28th, just after lunchtime, the august chambers of the Baltimore City Council hosted a struggle that set neighbor against neighbor in a fight for tradition against the inexorable forces of pernicious disruptive change. Or perhaps vice versa.
The setting was a meeting of the Land Use and Transportation Committee. The topic was the proposed implementation of Residential Permit Parking in certain blocks of Hampden. The players were two small groups of thoughtful, committed citizens (one considerably smaller than the other).
Some may be interested primarily in the numbers, so here’s a summary for the cyborgs: 21 citizens testified. 7 supported the parking plan, while 14 opposed it. After the testimony, two council members, Nick Mosby and James Kraft expressed their intention to oppose the proposition if and when it comes up for a general vote. When the committee voted, five members supported the plan while one opposed and one was absent. Thus the Hampden RPP plan moved out of committee, to be brought before the entire City Council.
The fourteen citizens who testified against the plan conveyed a consistent message that, to the extent that there is any parking problem in Hampden, Residential Permit Parking was not going to solve it. Homeowners, merchants, clergy, somebody from Remington: everyone agreed that RPP was not a good idea, that the process thus far has verged on unethical, and that, again, the RPP is really not a good idea.
The seven who supported the plan were united in stressing that parking was a real problem on their blocks, regardless of how plentiful parking may be elsewhere. More than one person expressed frustration at feeling trapped in their houses after 8pm, fearing where they’d have to park if they moved their cars. Addressing a common criticism, they insisted that they did not expect to park directly in front of their respective houses, but only wanted a reasonable walk from their cars.
Councilperson Nick Mosby was careful to make clear that he had the utmost respect for Mary Pat Clarke, but due to the overwhelming number of negative emails and phone calls he had received, he simply could not support the plan.
Councilperson James Kraft of the 1st District, although not a member of the Land Use and Transportation Committee, agreed with Mr. Mosby. Mr. Kraft represents both Canton and Fells Point areas that, as he said, “have no parking.” He was able to speak from experience about the practicality of Residential Permit Parking: near the Can Factory in Canton, an RPP zone was implemented but later repealed. Residents found that RPP simply did not work. He also expressed his respect for his colleague Mary Pat Clarke and sympathized that a Council representative must sometimes introduce unwise legislation on behalf of their constituents.
In her final remarks, Councilperson Mary Pat Clarke confirmed that she did not consider the proposal to be unwise and was fully supportive of the residents who were promoting it. She challenged the notion that there was anything underhanded about the process, insisting that every decision and amendment had been made in open public meetings with input from the community.
In the end, twice as many citizens testified against the proposal as testified in support of it. A 900-signature petition against the proposal was entered into the record. The committee voted 5-1 (with one abstention) to approve the plan for a general City Council vote.