I love and respect Webb Evans of United American Progress Association. As its founder, he has fought for black people and black businesses his entire life. So when his column appeared in last week’s edition of the Austin Weekly News, I read it to fully comprehend just how the parking meters were, as he wrote, robbing the black community.
He argues that with the new parking meter deal, pastors must now pay to park in front of their churches. On Sundays, parishioners must also pay for parking if the new meter box is located in front of the church. In the past, parking meters were never utilized on Sundays. But the horrific deal that Mayor Daley orchestrated now means everyone has to feed meters-including on Sunday.
Now let’s be clear, in 99.99 percent of the cases, the parking meters were there before the churches. Go up and down major business streets, especially Halstead on the South Side or Madison on the West Side and you will see brand new edifices to pastors and their ministries. Those new churches were built on business strips where grocery stores, shoe stores, clothing stores, and all sorts of revenue-producing businesses should have been located.
The Daley administration in kowtowing to the black clergy has allowed many of them to build their new churches in business districts. The churches saw the meters in front, but didn’t care. It was more important to have their building on a major thoroughfare where it could be seen, as opposed to two blocks over inside a residential community where it truly should have been. And I won’t even begin to talk about the churches who established themselves in existing storefronts with no parking to be found.
The attitude of the pastor is “let them park on the street,” otherwise money would have been included to create a parking lot, like the Chicago ordinance says they should.
Now that parking meters are enforced every single day, there has been an outcry of “foul” coming from some in the church community. And sorry Webb Evans, but if the businessman has to pay to park to conduct his business on the same street as the church, why should the pastor be given an exemption?
Calling for a boycott of the parking meters is not going to work. Why? Because the law is clear that if the parking meter company doesn’t make the money they’re supposed to generate every year, they can expand where the meters are installed. That parking meter deals gives them that right.
I also found it very self-serving that the concern is just about having to pay to park near a church, given that most churches don’t pay property taxes. They also get free water service and free garbage pick up. They are benefiting tremendously off the backs of the taxpayers and now want special consideration for parking too?!?
The proper lament about parking in this city should be that the deal should be rescinded because it hurts all Chicagoans. The mayor should issue an executive order stating that all parking meter violations will no longer be enforced. The proper fight is that the entire business community is hurting as people who don’t have to shop here go outside the city where parking is free.
Lastly, I have a suggestion for those churches: buy some land and build a parking lot. The neighbors who live on the blocks near those churches have the right to park in front of their homes without all the spaces being taken up every Sunday by those parishioners.