If put to a vote, do you believe that Wilkes-Barre City residents would agree to lease the city’s parking assets to a private vendor for an up front windfall of $20 million?
If a letter to the editor in today’s Times Leader is any indication, the answer is a resounding no. Some members of The Downtown Residents Association Parking Advocacy Committee fear city Mayor Tom Leighton “is selling us out.” We are guessing they are not alone in thinking this.
We still cringe at how former Luzerne County commissioners Greg Skrepenak and Todd Vonderheid sold out county taxpayers by signing a 20-year, $58 million lease with a privately-owned juvenile detention center built by here’s a few bucks-for-you millionaire Bob Mericle. That lease was not only misguided, it was also one-sided.
Now Leighton, his pal, J.J. Murphy and Murphy’s brother’s law firm, are eagerly pursuing leasing the city’s parking garages, meters and the Taj Mahal Intermodal Center. They seem to be ignoring other cities’ monstrous mistakes for giving up control of its parking assets as well as failing to talk to other city leaders who rejected such plans.
This issue is far too important to be decided by a handful of self-serving city officials and an ex-city administrator who is capitalizing on this venture to the tune of $300, soon to be $400 per hour.
Pat Parks, Jeff Smith , David Lepore, Lillian Cohen and Anita Frank, who signed the letter to the editor, have sounded the most recent alarm against Leighton’s plan and are apparently not impressed with his proclamation that he will use that $20 million to re-invest in the city. That is, after all the consultants have been paid and the Taj Mahal’s debt has been paid off.
“The use of the $20 million figure is questionable,” the committee members said. “Thirty years is a very long time. The meters generate a sum that should remain an income stream for the city…..use that money to balance the city budget and use it wisely.”
Yeah, like that’s going to happen, spending taxpayers’ money wisely, that is.
The committee fears, and with good reason we might add, that an outside entity will take the downtown back to 2004 with people visiting strip malls because of the free parking they offer.
“Who really needs to come downtown and feed meters?” they ask.
How many of you attend shows at the Kirby Center and enjoy parking around Public Square for free while also taking a short walk to Cafe Toscana, Thai Thai or Katana for dinner first? There’s already talk about putting more meters around the square. Wasn’t free parking there part of the sales pitch associated with the Taj Mahal construction?
Residents around Ross Street recently complained about getting the runaround from the city administration regarding their requests for permit parking stickers.
Can’t do that till we check with our private vendor who is going to give us $20 million.
City residents should push hard to try to get this deal on the ballot.
There is too much at stake – for residents, businesses and taxpayers.
“Let’s remember that public parking is meant to attract patrons to the downtown, not deter them from coming,” said the Parking Advocacy Committee members.
Are you listening, Mayor Leighton?
You should be because so far you’re not doing a very good job selling this plan to the public. There seems to be – with good reason – a lot of skepticism and a lot of distrust.
- Betty Roccograndi