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Give back free parking to farmers market



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June 04, 2013 | 04:31 PM
What would Andy do?

I asked that question last summer when the city was simmering with debate over everything from swimming dogs to hot dog stands.

If you're older than 40 or watch TV reruns, you know Andy Taylor, the character played by Andy Griffith.

Andy was the sheriff of the fictional TV town called Mayberry where everything seemed to work out because of Andy's uncommonly-good common sense.

I started wondering how Andy would view the recent decision by the city council to charge for parking at the Lake Geneva farmers market.

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The market is as much a sign of spring as the launching of the Gage boats from the Riviera or the installation of piers on Geneva Lake.

But now this bit of Mayberry-like charm has lost its luster thanks to the council's decision to discontinue the long-standing practice of allowing free parking for this local tradition.

Part of the rationale for charging at the meters was based on the assumption that something like $1,500 would be lost for the season.

Wrong. You can't lose what you never had.

Except for a couple weeks a year, visitors simply don't park that far north on Broad Street on Thursday mornings, so it's not like anyone would be paying for those spots anyway.

True, the city is making more money by charging.

Still, its parking fund is hardly in dire straits.

The city netted $525,406 in 2012. In 2010, it made a profit of $451,143. In 2011 it was $475 584.

Should we be tarnishing a local tradition for a few extra dollars for an already lucrative enterprise?

The kiosks already have a bad rap. Some of the complaining is unwarranted. But do the kiosks really need another image issue?

You'd think the city would be able to afford to give the farmers market free parking for four hours a week.

There are some who argue that the farmers market could move to another location, like Dunn Field, where parking isn't an issue.

Maybe so. But until that happens, let them have their day.

What about fairness?

There's a point to be made there and I made it in a column earlier this year when I argued against the continuation of a parking deal with the Genoa City Lions Club.

For years, the club has reserved a parking stall at the intersection of Broad and Main streets for its Harley-Davidson raffle.

I originally said that was unfair to other organizations who might want the same privilege.

I was wrong and said so in a subsequent column.

I hadn't applied Andy Taylor's rules of common sense to the issue. I'm trying to here.

He'd say there's no reason not to continue a small town tradition if it isn't hurting anyone.

In the case of the Lions raffle, no one was hurt because no other organization had asked for a similar privilege and the city wasn't out any money because the Lions paid for those slots.

In the case of the farmers market, no one is hurt because the city won't lose parking revenue it never had, and because there's no similar organization asking for the same privilege.

Back when the Harley raffle debate was under way, I wrongly suggested that the city would be more grown up if it tackled the problem before it occurred.

But now I'm thinking not creating a problem where there isn't one is the truly mature approach — one Andy Taylor would have adopted.

Andy Taylor always found a middle ground between small town values and the need of a growing city to be fair to as many people as possible.

The same logic applies to the farmers market.

As the city grows up, it ought to see what traditions are worthy of nurturing instead of hurting them under the guise of consistency.

If there are other organizations that want similar privileges, deal with them as the situation merits.

There'd be a variety of options at that point, but why preordain something that will only cause difficulties for the current organizations?

Instead of letting the rules run the city, a truly mature government considers each situation.

Andy Taylor would say let well enough alone, value our traditions and do as little harm as possible.

Halverson is editor and general manager of the Lake Geneva Regional News. Taylor is sheriff of Mayberry.

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