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Gap Analysis

by Winn Maddrey

April 8,2009

Recently I experienced some gaps in our city that enlightened me. What kind of gaps? Gaps where the system has provided a solution that costs money, demands maintenance, and, yet, falls short of actually meeting the need. One of these seemed isolated, two seemed coincidental and three, well, seemed like an article in the making.

Our car needed a tune-up and so I decided it made sense to drive to the dealership, walk to the light rail and ride the train to work. Since the dealership is located a few blocks from the light rail, the plan seemed both logical and achievable. So I dropped the car and walked out to the side of the street – actually South Boulevard – to discover that there is no sidewalk. None. Zero. So I trudged the wet grass and mud, trashing my shoes. To think that we spent $522 million dollars to build a 9.6 mile stretch of rail, I would have thought that we would have also created pedestrian-friendly access. Or at least, that’s what I think we should have done. Instead of still having to use a car to get from point A to train to point B.

I had a meeting at the Government Center and, as usual, I was both running late and the deck was full. So I parked on Davidson Street at one of the City’s digital parking meters. Have you used one of these things? In this situation, they have taken a simple parking meter and made it immensely more complicated and inefficient. By adding a printer, a credit card reader and new processes, the system has added time and yet not helped. Don’t believe me? Next time you are in Gateway Village or near the Time Warner/Bobcats Arena, watch someone for the first, second, or third time. They try to learn how to use the machine. Then they look around for help. Then they re-read the machine. It’s humorous. It’s sad. The menus are confusing. Could it contribute to why people think that there is a parking issue downtown?

On a Saturday, at about 3:30 in the afternoon, I took my children to the McColl Center for Visual Art. We were in a hurry to get in before the exhibit closed at 4. I admit it; I parked the wrong way in an unmetered spot on a side street off of Tryon. We were inside for 40 minutes. I received a parking ticket for $25. On a Saturday. Now I am willing to accept that I was completely wrong here. But come on. Does the City really need to staff the ParkIt! group on weekends? Do we need the money? Couldn’t there be more effort and attention to other areas of need? I went to the ParkIt! website to learn more about them. Here’s my favorite response to the parking FAQ: What do NO PARKING signs look like? No Parking Signs.

Wow. Helpful.

So what’s the point? What’s the common thread? Or is there one? 

All of these, and many more, challenges are paid for by you and me. Our taxpayer dollars – from sales tax to property taxes and more – pay for these gaps that city and county employees manage. I do appreciate all that the City and County do and believe that they serve a vital role. In my opinion, I am stunned by the way these monies get us only part of the way there. In effect, get part of the way there is as if we’re making no progress. 

That’s what irks me. I realize we’re in a tough economic environment right now. But it would be great if the City, the County, even the State, had a ‘Common Sense’ czar whose role it was to call out and fix these kinds of gaps. Because if these gaps exist, what others are out there? What do we not know? Or more importantly, could there be someone watching the bigger issues, the policy gaps, the issues that I, as a citizen, am unaware of? That’s where we need government to be responsive, to be proactive and to make us a better community as we grow.

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