BEVERLY HILLS (CBSLA.com) — A seemingly small item in L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti's proposed budget has triggered some strong criticism.
The mayor wants to hire more parking enforcement officers to hand out tickets at expired meters.
Despite Garcetti stating otherwise, some parking activists say the initiative is a thinly-veiled plan to balance the city's budget on the backs of parked motorists, who in many cases are shopping at local stores.
"If the mayor thinks that's the answer, we need a new mayor," Sherman Oaks business owner Gary Karlich told KCAL9's Dave Bryan.
Karlich runs Archie's Barber Shop on a busy stretch of Ventura Boulevard with plenty of parking meters out front.
He says tickets are already being handed out in swarms along Ventura, and doesn't see the benefit in adding more officers to the force.
"They're waiting around the corner to pounce on the person. Now I've seen many occasions where a person pulls up, goes into the store to get change, and by the time they're back out there the ticket-giver says, 'I'm sorry, I punched it in. I can't change it,'" he said.
The controversy began when the mayor proposed hiring 50 more parking enforcement officers.
Critics charge the new enforcement hires could generate $5 million in additional revenue, but Garcetti says the parking ticket rebellion may be premature, insisting it won't mean more tickets from parked motorists, and it won't mean more revenue for the city.
"Nobody's been given a mission of saying, 'Get more money out of folks,'" Garcetti said, adding that the new parking enforcement hires are not about raising revenue at all, but rather keeping costs down.
"Essentially now we have so many people working overtime that it is more expensive than having a few more people who are both going to cover that time as part-time workers [and] we also have a lot of people retiring, so it's keeping the level steady - nothing more, nothing less - to get us through a tough year, " he said.
L.A. Parking Freedom Initiative spokesperson Jay Beeber is skeptical, and believes such a ballot could spark an uprising among voters.
"The public has said, 'Enough. Enough of this,'" Beeber said.
"This is about how much more money we can generate. It's not about getting compliance. They always say it's about compliance, and we say it's about safety. But really it's about generating revenue."
Garcetti said his office is working closely with leaders to ensure measures are taken that are in the public's best interest.
"We're working with a lot of those leaders, in Sherman Oaks and in other places, to re-think how we're going to do parking. Can we give people a reminder on their smartphone [indicating] your ticket's about to to expire? Your meter's about to expire? And give people the ability to add a couple more quarters through their own phone? This shouldn't be a 'gotcha' culture and that's what we're looking at. We're sitting down with them and I think we can do this quicker without even a ballot initiative," Garcetti said.
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