Late last month, we reported that the city of Sedona had collected nearly a quarter-million dollars in the first six months since parking meters were installed in the summer.
The city is on pace to collect a half-million by the end of the first year, well above the initial estimates.
Despite the revulsion of some people on social media, that the city aims to gouge all our tourists everywhere they want to park, there are still at least eight free parking lots throughout Uptown, and side streets off State Route 89A remain free, accommodating 415 cars, hundreds more than those in the 101 paid spots on main street.
What is a concern to many business owners in Uptown is that they look at the $500,000 that will collected by the city by end of the first year and wonder how many of those dollars are not coming into their shops and restaurants.
Granted, there is not a one-to-one correlation between dollars spent on parking now not spent in private businesses — that is not how disposable income used on tourist travel expenses generally works — but public perception is a different creature. If a business’ revenue is down for any of a host of reasons, owners look at the $500,000 the city has collected and assume, with some accuracy, that some of those funds would have come to them had parking remained free throughout Uptown.
The case can be made that tourists who travel on budget may spend less in Uptown after having paid for a parking spot. Maybe they order a slightly lessexpensive entree, or skip an appetizer, or opt not to buy a keychain or postcard, or decide not to enter a particular store or shopping complex because they only have a few more minutes left on the meter.
In the short run, these minor decisions do not amount to much in a business’ daily bottom line, but when multiplied by the 3 million tourists Sedona receives in a year, the parking meters have had a negative impact on sales to Uptown businesses, affecting inventories, store improvements and the salaries of our retail and service workers.
That being said, the city has pledged that all the revenue generated by parking meters will be spent on Uptown improvements. However, the city was not and still is not clear exactly what those improvements will be.
Now that the funds have effectively paid off the meters’ installation, the city needs to be up front with business and property owners exactly what those funds will be used for in Uptown so that employers and owners can see the dollars they’ve lost are going toward improvements that will help them in the future.
Whether it’s informational kiosks to direct tourists to businesses, traffic flow and mitigation improvements, more public bathrooms or a dedicated fund to build a long-promised parking garage somewhere in the area, business and property owners need to see that these “lost” dollars are being spent somewhere that benefits them. Without visible evidence, every time the city spends money on a project elsewhere in town, or issues grants to nonprofits or partner programs, Uptown employees and business owners grumble that that’s where their lost dollars have gone, even if those programs were funded by complete different means from different sources.
It is human nature to make the shortest connection between impression — “the city’s parking meters are cutting into my shop’s revenues” — and observation “the city is replacing road signs in West Sedona,” without investigating the connections and the details — which is, in part, why newspapers exist, to explain to readers the source and destination of their tax dollars.
It would behoove the city to make these improvement plans abundantly clear with tangible progress either on paper or with visible construction so that Uptown can clearly see what parking meters have purchased.
— Christopher Fox Graham
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