It seems as if the Somerville Traffic Commission has a sticky situation on it’s hands.
I attended the regularly scheduled Somerville Traffic Commission meeting at the Tufts Administration building this evening, and from what was printed on the agenda, I expected a fairly run-of-the-mill session. But the 75-odd residents who packed the TAB cafeteria had a different agenda in mind: they wanted to talk about the May 21, 2009 vote in which the Traffic Commission approved a citywide implementation of residential permit parking on all streets. (Download meeting minutes)
The meeting opened with a statement from the members of the Commission that protocol would be strictly followed during the meeting. Then, they addressed the portion of the crowd who they believed were at the meeting because of “erroneous” phone calls, assuring them that parking fines received by tradesmen working at or delivering to a Somerville home could only be charged to the owner of the vehicle, not the resident at whose home they were parked. At this point, a sigh of relief rippled through the crowd – clearly, the Commission members had guessed the citizens’ concerns correctly.
But after such a promising start, the tone of the meeting took a foul turn when Alderman Taylor, of Ward 3, was invited to read a statement he had prepared. When it became clear that Alderman Taylor, on behalf of his constituents, was protesting the May 21 vote, Traffic Commission Chairman Stan Koty immediately began to talk over the alderman, calling his statement “Out of order” and refusing to allow Mr. Taylor to continue. An agitated exchange continued, until Chairman Koty eventually permitted Alderman Taylor to submit his statement in writing, to be put on file.
Though Chairman Koty was simply keeping his promise to adhere strictly to protocol and the agenda, the mood in the room was clearly on Alderman Taylor’s side. On one occasion, the crowd broke into spontaneous applause when the alderman was able to get one of his more salient points through: he wondered, despite his making a formal request to put the issue of the citywide permit-only parking on the agenda, why it failed to appear. Here’s the video of Taylor vs. Koty that the Somerville Journal put on YouTube:
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/IPYtDaT80Bg" width="425" height="344" allowfullscreen="true" fvars="fs=1" /]
Read the Somerville Journal article by Auditi Guha including more videos : Somerville Traffic Commission refuses to hear alderman, resident parking regulation complaints
The citizens’ frustration only grew throughout the session at the commission’s unwillingness to discuss the changes to the permit parking laws. Several business owners expressed concern that the Traffic Task Force’s recommendation to change parking restrictions on major thoroughfares would severely hinder commercial accessibility to the shops and services on those streets. The Task Force report (Download the Report), released in June and including input from Somerville officials, Alderman, several small business representatives, the Acting Head of Traffic and Parking James Kotzuba and Mayor Curtatone, concluded that further restricting permit parking and limiting non-resident parking in heavy-traffic areas near commercial districts would help encourage vehicle turnover and prevent non-residents from parking all day while they rode the train into the city. The citizens who spoke tonight worried that the constricted parking times would drive away customers from restaurants, the movie theater, gyms, and other businesses that often required a longer stay. Others attempted to steer the conversation again into the wider discussion of the citywide changes, but were continually shut down by Chairman Koty and Alderman Trane, who declared them to be out of order. One woman, in her frustration, shouted that “the whole room is out of order!”, and this, too, inspired applause.
In response to accusations that the Commission failed to make the findings of the report, the hearings on the recommendations, and the major vote on May 21 appropriately available and transparent to the public, Chairman Koty and the other attending members declared that the city had acted properly, and that any appeal to the vote would need to be petitioned through the regular channels.
By the time recess was called, the commission had agreed to table the amendment addressing the parking changes on the busy roads, but still refused to allow discussion on the larger issue. At the conclusion of the meeting, a handful of people surrounded Courtney Koslow, representing the Somerville Parking Advocacy and Support Coalition (SPARC), looking to sign a petition that they hoped would lead to forcing the issue on the Traffic Commission.
The petition can be signed at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/SomervilleParkingAppeal2009 . More information is available at www.somervilleparc.blogspot.com, or by email, at SomervillePARC(at)gmail.com