Hartford Parking Authority - Run the agency like a business, not a patronage mill
June 11, 2010
Mark McGovern, just named executive director of the Hartford Parking Authority, seems a good choice for that job. A city hall veteran with a background in economic development, Mr. McGovern knows the issues and can quickly get up to speed on how the parking piece theoretically fits in the puzzle.
He and the authority's board will also develop a strategic plan with long-term goals — a process already underway. The quasi-public agency operates three garages and two surface lots and is in charge of on-street parking downtown. It provides more than 4,600 garage spaces and 220 surface spaces and oversees 1,600 metered parking spaces in the central business district.
The authority has, in addition, embarked on a marketing strategy to fill two underused facilities, the Morgan and Church Street garages.
This movement by the authority is welcome — although it is past due, since the agency is more than 10 years old and has suffered more than its share of upheaval. Former executive director James Kopencey had been on medical leave for nearly a year before retiring last month.
Mr. Kopencey, who believed the authority's role and reach should be expanded, had been at odds with Mayor Eddie Perez over the authority's role. Mr. Kopencey, however, was right.
Any land owned by the city and used for parking — there are about 100 such parcels in Hartford — should be under the jurisdiction of the parking authority, which would either run the lots or make lease arrangements with private operators and enforce compliance with city codes and rates.
This would go a long way toward eliminating political deals under which the powers that be in city hall give sweetheart contracts or leases to friends to run the city-owned lots. Parking should be run like a business, not like a patronage mill.
But it will require a change of heart in many city agencies that now have part of the parking action and a massive rewriting of a rat's nest of old ordinances to give the Hartford Parking Authority the expanded reach and role it should have.
Parking in Hartford is still a mess that needs to be cleaned up.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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