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Free parking is less than a month away, but it doesn’t last long. Free parking starts on November 15th and ends on February 28th. Lake Geneva currently has sixty push-button parking kiosks around the city and has had them since 2011. There have been several complaints about the kiosks, claiming they are not very user friendly. Is this the real reason for complaints, or is the underlying reason for these complaints that locals are frustrated with having to pay to park, and also have the rates jacked up by the manipulation of the central computer complex in city hall?

This week Lake Geneva will be getting two new parking kiosks that will be used for a trial period of four months free of charge. This will give the parking department, mainly Sylvia Mullally (Lake Geneva’s parking queen), time to evaluate the pros and cons of upgrading the current parking system to one that is more user friendly. The temporary kiosks will be up and running this week so they will not get the use they would on a busy summer weekend, but it’s just a free experiment.  Right. The point in having a trial period before purchasing is to see how the new system might work during high traffic times and not necessarily in the cold winter weather. The study cannot be fully completed during the time the city has allotted, and include real-time real customer usage. The two temporary kiosks will be placed in high traffic locations. One will be on Main Street and the other on Broad Street. The kiosks will include a touch screen system that will allow for the stall numbers to be eliminated.  This system will record and use vehicle license plate numbers instead. The biggest complaint, supposedly, of the current system has been the use of stall numbers, and parking tickets issued, when the wrong number is entered. The use of license plate numbers brings up a much bigger specter of governmental surveillance and control. Just who is going to get this information?  When your car is parked and where it is parked should not be information available to public entities on an information gathering basis.  Everyone in the country has been sensitized to what happens to this kind of information.

It all starts with the best of intentions and all kinds of promises about privacy.  It all ends up in divorce courts, police inquiries and court cases.  License plate scanning by police departments started out to be used only to catch people with expired plates.  Now it is used to track potential or real criminals, those without auto insurance and more.  Is the public going to catch on to the new system and then simply decide not to show up? Nobody will ever know since there will be no way to know why the downtown becomes a wasteland.  The wasteland will be declared to have happened because of other complex issues.  And then, there’s the expense.

Are these new meters supposed to be free?  The city just got done paying for the old system.  What now?  More millions?  What brother-in-law is selling this new system to the city?  And will not the ability to rapidly change the rates without going out into the town to access the machines not be a hot selling point? How much to simply go out on all the streets and pull the old pipes with the stall numbers out?  And how much to repair the holes?  Is anybody talking about money here except this small newspaper? It also appears that the current parking meter system will do the same job of using license plates instead of parking spot numbers if the correct app is used.  So what is going on?  Queen Mullaly is a wonderful parking maven, so why is the city handing her this extremely hot and expensive potato?

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