Three years ago I accepted a seasonal full-time position with the Salem Parking Department.
Two summers and the better part of one winter were spent patrolling city streets enforcing the municipal parking code.
The walking involved was tremendous in both volume and its effect on my body. On an average day I would walk 24,000 steps, which is about 12 miles. There were some days that I walked over 30,000 steps.
The tickets were there to write every day. Expired meters, crosswalks and corners were always calling for attention. It did not matter how fast or slow I walked, the tickets were there to be written.
Residential parking permits were a large part of my day, every day. Those who live in the resident parking areas are very vigilant when it comes to those who park on their streets.
There would frequently be an angry person on the receiving end of an orange envelope. Only one person ever actually got ugly with me, but there were a few others who came close. It is difficult to for me to understand anger over a $15 parking ticket. If you earned it, pay it. It is not worth getting angry about. If it is a mistake or there were extenuating circumstances, appeal it. The appeals process is simple and quick.
There was a single incident where I was truly angered by someone. A business owner parked in a fire lane and objected strongly enough to his ticket to run across a busy street to berate me, threaten me and then tell the parking director that I spent far too much time goofing off instead of writing tickets. He made enough of an impression on me that I will not spend my money at his place of business nor will I recommend it to anyone else, ever.
My efforts daily were an honest effort to be fair to all. I wrote tickets for strangers, tickets for acquaintances, tickets for friends and even tickets for family members. There are more than a few elected or appointed city officials and police officers who were issued an orange envelope by my hand. The odds are fairly good that I wrote you a ticket.
It was a good job and I liked it, but to everything there is a season.
While the new parking plan was being developed, I was in a good position to observe and evaluate the chronic and not so chronic issues that the plan is designed to correct.
The primary problem would be those who park in the Washington Street and Essex Street area. This would include Lynde, Federal, Sewall Streets, and the parking lots along Klop Alley and Front Street. Every day a large number of prime spaces are taken up by owners and employees of local restaurants and other businesses. Court employees are also a part of this situation. Many of those people "feed the meter" and risk the ticket rather than park elsewhere. As a result of this behavior, the folks who want to shop or dine in downtown Salem cannot find a place to park.
If an owner or an employee of a downtown business employs that practice then they have no business complaining either about the "lack of parking" or about the plan soon to be implemented. You know who you are. I know who are, and you have been a part of the problem all along. The new plan is an attempt to correct a problem that you helped to create.
There are problems with the new plan that need to be worked out. Businesses on Gedney Street and Hawthorne Boulevard have made that very clear. That is to be expected; perfection is ever elusive. Let the process work, voice your concerns and let's see how things develop.
It was a pleasure serving you, Salem. Please be sure to treat the remaining meter maids and the person who replaces me with respect, but also be sure to demand that respect in return.