Tags: Staff Editorial
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January 22, 2013 | 02:12 PMRight now it's a solution without a problem, but that doesn't mean it should be swept under the carpet.
I'm talking about the debate over whether or not to allow the Genoa City Lions Club to continue renting prime parking stalls in Lake Geneva for a charity raffle.
For the last 20 years, the group has parked a trailer and the raffle prize, a Harley Davidson motorcycle, at the corner of Main and Broad streets during weekends and other high-traffic periods.
For the second year in a row, the issue has come up for debate before the city council.
At the last meeting, alderwoman Sarah Hill asked "is every parking stall up for sale or just the most popular ones?"
It's not a cost issue. The group pays for the parking.
Does it cause a traffic bottleneck?
I don't think it really impedes traffic anymore than cars taking up the stalls.
Does it take away prime parking stalls from shoppers?
Probably. But downtown parking is such a problem that this particular issue is a drop in the bucket.
A friend of mine wonders why we in Lake Geneva worry about issues as small as this one. Well, we don't have multi-million lawsuits or council members yelling at each other anymore. I guess it's a good thing that the bar on what's newsworthy has been lowered.
This particular issue will be discussed again at the council's next meeting this coming Monday night. And as you can tell from the opinions elsewhere on this page, there are people with strong opinions on the subject.
Here's mine: I think it's simply bad public policy to have parking stalls reserved for a group when no one else has the same privilege. You can argue the Lions should just show up early and plug the meter like everyone else. But that would be too simple.
The caveat is that no other group seems to have asked to rent stalls, so there's no immediate conflict. As a result, it's tempting to say, "ah, just let 'em."
But that's hardly the most forward-looking perspective. The issue is going to rear its ugly head at some point as a practical matter and we might as well deal with it while it's small. Debates in Lake Geneva tend to grow from stall- to stadium-size left unresolved.
I wonder what those in support of continuing the practice would say if another worthy group or groups asked for the same deal. What if they asked for the same stalls? Would the stalls go up for auction?
Would it be first-come, first-served or do the Lions get preference because they've been doing it for 20 years? You could just as easily argue that it's only fair, after all those years, that a new group — especially if it was from Lake Geneva — should have the opportunity.
Alderman Alan Kupsik suggested that the Lions should consider a less busy downtown location.
It's a nice attempt at compromise, but I think it's kicking the can down the street. Moving it a block or two takes away from the visibility the Lions so clearly covet and doesn't really do much for clearing parking stalls for shoppers or creating a consistent policy.
Opponents of any group, especially charitable ones, become easily demonized. I'm sure Kupsik and Hill have nothing against the Lions as an organization, charities in general, or the Harley brand. I sure don't. But there are many worthy, charitable organizations.
Endorsing systems that favor one group when others might want the same opportunity, isn't a way to run a city.
Maybe, if Kupsik and Hill represented the Lions, they'd have a different responsibility. But, as members of the city council, their responsibility is to the citizens of Lake Geneva. Part and parcel of that is to be custodians of public policy. And part of that is making sure to avoid policies that can create real or potential dilemmas like the those I mentioned above. Waiting until something goes wrong isn't wise decision-making.
Bottom line: It's a policy with cracks in it that should be repaired before it breaks.
See opposing views on this topic in this week's issue of the Lake Geneva Regional News.