George Rebane: Nevada City’s parking paradox |

George Rebane: Nevada City’s parking paradox

George Rebane
Other Voices

Nevada City has decided to expand metered parking in its downtown area and make it considerably more expensive.

The town’s left-lurching governance has been comedy central for as long as people can remember — it is always short of money and has very little idea about what makes an economically vibrant community.

The town’s City Council mamas and papas see every financial shortfall as a problem calling for more fees and taxes. As all of our pro-socialist neighbors, the town’s leadership doesn’t seem to understand that people’s economic activities are affected by the taxing of those activities. Neither do they understand that you get less of what you tax more.

Nevada City, like most municipalities, generates its internal revenues from property tax, sales tax, and a blizzard of fees charged for everything under the sun. The town’s major cash importers are its retirees and tourists. It is these folks who make up the overwhelming share of people who stroll on its downtown sidewalks, shop, and eat there. And they all get there in some kind of motor vehicle that must be parked, which then needs to be forgotten for the duration as they tarry to enjoy the town’s historical architecture, visit shops, take in some theater, and enjoy a leisurely fare in one of its fine eateries.

… if the City Council thinks it has financial problems now, they ain’t seen nothing yet.

In an attempt to cobble together some post-hoc rationale for setting parking fees, City Councilwoman Reinette Senum quoted the following criteria from some planning manual: Fees should be set so that 1) there is at least one parking space available on every block, 2) parking spots are easy to find so as to eliminate excessive cruising, and 3) parking turnover occurs at rates that increase business patronage. These criteria are fine and good for commercial regions that provide goods and services which are inconvenient to find elsewhere. Nevada City doesn’t come close to satisfying that requirement; almost everything the town offers can be found elsewhere within minutes of its soon-to-be burdensome parking meters.

What no one appears to have done ahead of time is find out, in a systems sense, how the town is used. That requires discovery of its usership (who visits), usage (for what purposes), and usability (ease of achieving purposes). Instead, the town’s leadership just focused on the need for more revenue, and then took the well-oiled but simple-minded solution of raising taxes on every commercial activity in town while making doing business there more inconvenient — in short, the town’s usability will now take a hit, and that will impact its usership and inevitably its usage.

Another real-world concept that’s anathema to our progressive planners is the Laffer Curve. This informs that there is an optimum taxing structure (think a rate, say, between 0% and 100%) which will maximize a jurisdiction’s revenues. When you exceed that tax rate, revenues will start decreasing and will continue to decrease as you pile on taxes.

Making Nevada City’s downtown an inviting place to spend time or shop will now definitely take a hit, and if the City Council thinks it has financial problems now, they ain’t seen nothing yet.

George Rebane lives in Nevada City, outside the city limits.

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