TO LAND ON “FREE PARKING”
Free parking is fast disappearing from all of downtown Lake Geneva. Some outlying streets in residential neighborhoods, two schools and the municipal parking lots near the Museum and the city hall building still have free parking. But it’s fast disappearing and parking enforcement is becoming better and better armed with technology to collect more and more. Current city parking tags, for instance, good for two hours but not if you move or change parking places, now all have their numbers recorded. The meter maids go around all day long inputting those numbers for each city resident car they run across, and then cross checking back and forth with other meter maids doing the same thing to see if the citizen’s car has been moved. Voila! Another parking ticket if the car has been moved. And then there’s the perfectly illegal mutual ownership of parking meters currently going on in and around Lake Geneva. You see, it’s illegal for private citizens to collect parking fees and then pursue the matter in court to secure the loss of driver’s licenses’ or auto registrations if the scofflaw doesn’t pay…unless that private citizen gets in league with the city, and the city does it for him or her.
Yes, it is illegal, but the City of Lake Geneva has about the least principled city attorney in the whole United States as its legal counsel. So, the city is waiting to be sued. That this behavior represents about the worst morality, ethics and downright bad manners is apparently a function of yesterday’s thinking. The downtown parking rates doubled two years ago when the new electronic meters were installed. Doubled to pay for the new system, of course, which was put in to make it “more convenient” for citizens to park and pay.
Another blatant municipal lie. It was done to make money. It’s okay to make money, but why the lies that go along with that practice? Now the parking rates are set to be doubled again, but not everywhere. They are only set to double where you might really want to park. Down by the Riviera, along Wrigley Drive and Main Street. Every time parking rates double parking fines double along with them. Now it’s twenty dollars, with the amount doubling if you don’t pay quickly. Is it going to go to forty with the upcoming rates? That is unknown. The entire parking department, incidentally, is run by a terrifically talented woman named Sylvia, and her great staff. No more mean attendants, or nasty attitudes, like Lake Geneva had before. These people are pretty neat, which sometimes makes the receiving of a seemingly small, yet expensive, parking ticket all the worse.
There is no free parking to land on in Lake Geneva, not metaphorically, and soon not physically. There’s no “go directly to jail” punishment, but who knows what the future may bring as the city heads ever deeper into skimming from the public whatever the public will bear. The higher rates and big fines are there to penalize the people who visit from Illinois, which in of itself seems odd because those tourists are paying so many of the city’s bills. They are the ones that stay in Lake Geneva’s surrounding resorts. They are the ones who eat at the restaurants all summer. They are the ones who pay the exorbitant rental fees for boats and personal water craft. But the local residents take a hit in all this too, mostly because the majority of the small businesses in town are locally owned. And those businesses are doing less business as the parking rates increase. The visitors now have a much more negative attitude than they used to. Many of them also do not come back. They come to Lake Geneva to get away from Chicago, not see it cloned alongside a beautiful lake.