Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio has come out adamantly against a $2 a day parking fee for about 700 of 5,000 parking spaces at city trailhead parking lots. Here’s what he has to say in the latest newsletter he sent out (including to people like me who never signed up for it).
Let’s parse the massaged public relations quacking and uncover the truth, which will prove that DiCiccio’s stance is nothing more than a bush-league politician’s PR ploy:
1. The voice and presence of people who showed up, who contacted the council members, who passed out fliers and who talked with their friends and neighbors â€“ that at least temporarily stopped the city from adding the $2 parking fee.
Right. So far, every single one of the opposition’s attempts to unite have been an abject failure. The NoFee2HikeAZ.comÂ "protest hike" in August fizzled – according to its own Facebook photos, all of five people showed up. Its Twitter feed is followed by an avalanche of 12 people. And The Arizona Republic is reporting that "residents who spoke at the last parks board meeting Aug. 26 were 3-1 in favor of the fee."
2. First the Parks Board was convinced that if it didn't produce revenue to kick into the general fund that pays normal city operating costs, cuts even harsher than the deep ones imposed in the current budget could be forthcoming. It considered a parking fee as high as $5 a day on hikers
Even at $5, the day fee is still less than the $6 day-use fees at Maricopa County Regional Parks. And I have yet to hear anyone who doesn’t consider that a bargain for excellent trail systems. Phoenix and its parks lag behind â€“ they’re good, but they simply don’t equal the county’s offerings. A day-use fee for Phoenix might lessen the gap. Quality costs.
Oh, and another thing: The fee isn’t about hikers (Sal apparently doesn’t think cyclists and equestrians use the park): It’s about parking. And it’s about less than 20 percent of the parking available.
3. After park users and taxpayers who were tired of the avalanche of fee and tax hikes ($100 million in the past seven months) protested, the proposed parking fee was dropped to $2.
Fair enough. This fee is even better. But why is DiCiccio so opposed to trail users supporting the trails? That seems fair to me. Another thing he fails to do is establish exactly what every Phoenix taxpayer’s burden is for the park system. And he fails to account for the many people who don’t pay Phoenix taxes who use it.
4. Next, city management proposed allocating all fee revenues to parks, not the general fund (although neither staff nor the Council can guarantee that).
I’d like some verifiable proof other than DiCiccio’s word. Really, the city attorney or city manager should weigh in on this. DiCiccio only thinks he knows this, and until I see proof from a professional who can show us exactly why, I won’t believe him.
5. Finally, after all the calls, fliers, blogs and emails opposing new fees, advocates for the parking fees couldn't muster enough City Council votes to pass it.
Hmm, my study of the blogosphere and the message boards tells a different story. I see mostly people who are willing to pitch in their fair share, just like they do for county, state and federal parks. What a concept!
And DiCiccio makes it sound like the rest of the council was drooling at the filthy lucre the fees would draw from enforcing the parks department’s plan, and only tabled the motion from fear. What a blatant attempt to cast himself as the influential crusader.
And that’s really what it’s all about for him: Yet he cared so much about this issue that he had nothing to say before the parks board decided – with citizen input – to impose the fees. He said nothing. He did nothing.
But it’s a convenient political issue, a way to posture for the voters.
6. Here’s another example of DiCiccio’s ploys:
The ugly truth is that the $100 million in new taxes and feesÂ Phoenix has already imposed on its citizenry in the past seven months is not necessary to keep those services and protections. It's to find enough money to pay for 14,000-plus union-represented employees who average $100,000 a year in compensation.
This might have some meaning if DiCiccio had compared how that average salary compares to those of Mesa, Tucson and Scottsdale. As it is, it’s raw data with no context. It’s glib, facile, meaningless.
But hey, DiCiccio really isn’t a numbers guy, according to investment advisor Mike Shedlock. He wrote that DiCiccio’s plans to save the city money are lacking "specific details and numbers" and that where his belt-tightening plan "misses the boat (and badly) is in regards to police and fire. They are a huge portion of the budget and neither should be sacred cows." Read more of Shedlock’s view.
Speaking of removing police and fire from the equation – if you subtract their salaries, the average salary for a city of Phoenix employee shrinks to $50,000 a year. That’s according to Ari Cohn’s story in the Ahwatukee Foothills News.
This cannonballs DiCiccio off his high horse since his salary is about $64,000. I’d be very curious to know the salary of DiCiccio’s chief of staff, Hal DeKeyser. I wasn’t able to find it online through any database.
DiCiccio and his staff will try to spin information like this. It’s what they’re trained to do. It’s how they maintain their desperate grip on their positions.
All I ask is that you remember what you read here, and think about any pat answers and bomb-throwing language that you hear from DiCiccio.
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