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January 30, 2014

Paid parking here to stay

Cooperstown Crier

---- — State Supreme Court Judge Kevin Dowd laid down the political challenge to opponents of Cooperstown’s on-street paid-parking program, but it turns out that Dowd’s challenge has gone unanswered.

In his December verdict in favor of the village, Dowd ruled against Savor New York and its owner Brenda Berstler’s contention that paid parking has caused a dire economic impact on local businesses. “This, if it even does exist, is not a legal issue, but a political one whereby if you do not like the law you can organize and elect people who agree with you,” he wrote.

It remains to be seen if Cooperstown Republicans will find someone to challenge Mayor Jeff Katz in the March 18 village election, but one thing became clear at the GOP’s Jan. 23 caucus: this election won’t be a proxy fight about paid parking.

Despite sometimes vocal opposition to Katz and paid parking, no has successfully organized to repeal the law. At the caucus, the GOP did nominate a place-holder candidate, Otsego County GOP chairman Vince Casale, to run against Katz. The group now has until Feb. 3 to find an actual candidate to run for mayor.

But even if the GOP does find a candidate, and even if that candidate campaigns against paid parking, he or she won’t be able to make more than a symbolic argument against the law.

Not one word was spoken at the caucus about the village’s on-street paid-parking law, but a clear message was spoken nonetheless. By cross-nominating trustee Lou Allstadt and by failing to nominate a candidate to run against Deputy Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh, the GOP has signaled that anger against paid parking has not led to people organizing and taking Dowd’s advice about an elective remedy.

Katz, Tillapaugh and trustees Cindy Falk and Jim Dean all voted for paid parking in 2013. Allstadt and the other two trustees who were voted into office later in 2013, Bruce Maxson and Joan Nicols, have not voted on the issue, but all three have spoken in favor of paid parking.

To repeal the paid-parking law, Local Law No. 3 of 2013, opponents would need four votes. That translates to four electoral wins in the next two years. But with at most one contested election in 2014, and only two trustee positions up next year, it is unlikely that there will be enough votes to repeal paid parking until 2015.

We suspect by then it will cease to be an issue politically. The program – which raised about $188,000 in 2013 – is projected to raise more than $600,000 for the village by then. Repealing paid parking would require a lot of extra taxes, or a huge cut in services, to replace those lost funds in future budgets.

Residents and business owners may continue to grumble about the law, but we think their chances to repeal it have now passed. On-street paid parking is here to stay in Cooperstown.