University City Review: Grassroots Coalition Takes on the Parking Authority

University City Review: Grassroots Coalition Takes on the Parking Authority

While the cable show "Parking Wars," may generate amusement from its viewers- the Philadelphia Parking Authority’s (PPA’) practices lack a punch line for many motorists.

Others even go so far as to compare the PPA to a vulture swooping down on unsuspecting prey.

That’s why the People’s Choice Movement Coalition held a protest march in front of the PPA’s headquarters on 9th and Filbert Sts. Tuesday, March 2nd.

"We’re calling for a 60-day moratorium at the PPA," said Lawrence Clark, who organized Tuesday’s protest. The moratorium would allow those who owed payments to the PPA time to establish financial hardship, halt the auction of vehicles and impose a freeze on hiring and the awarding of contracts.

"Many people need their cars to get to work, to drive their kids to school or to the grocery store," said Clark. But, Clark continued, "it can cost six to seven thousand dollars to get one’s car released from the impound lot before it goes up for auction."

"People are losing their jobs because of this practice," said Clark, adding, that this fact seems particularly unsettling when taking into account the state of the economy and the current rate of unemployment in Philadelphia, which according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics was at 9.7 percent in January of 2010.

Even the IRS is showing more compassion about the funds that it’s owed, quipped People’s Choice Movement Coalition’s Marilyn Jewett.

And for members of the Coalition, they equate the PPA’s practices to the "illegal towing of vehicles, favoritism in parking enforcement in certain parts of the city while being punitive in others."

"People should be able to set up reasonable payment plans and have a reasonable time to the funds to keep their vehicles from being towed."

As it stands now, motorists need to pay eighty percent up front of what they owe the PPA to get their vehicles released from the impound lot. "But if you can pay eighty percent, then you can pay all of it," Clark exclaimed.

Besides imposing a sixty- day moratorium, the Coalition is calling for the establishment of an independent review board. It has to "include citizen representation and not be stacked with political and patronage cronies."

This review said Clark should entail a study of: "time management study for all employees, awarding of contracts, revenue enforcement policies, hiring practices, mission statement and functions as well as administrative and operational functions."

"No one is advocating for the people," said Clark of why the coalition formed. "However, we pay the salaries of those employed at the Parking Authority."

Thus far, the Coalition has made several attempts to meet with the PPA. "We’ve had no response from them yet," said Clark.

Tuesday’s rally was only the beginning of the first steps in what could become an extensive battle. The People’s Choice Movement Coalition plans to hold a series of citywide town meetings to bring attention the PPA’s practices. For more information or to become a member, call: 267-270-0239.

About the author

Andrew Goodman, Community Engagement Director, New Kensington Community Development Corporation

Goodman is currently the Community Engagement Director at the New Kensington Community Development Corporation.

Previously, Goodman worked as a city planner and project manager for PennPraxis. His focus was on projects that combined community engagement and public space design, including the Central Delaware Waterfront Planning Process, the Green2015 initiative for Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, and the Bartram’s Mile project in Southwest Philadelphia.  Goodman was an early contributor to PlanPhilly and helped shape the site in its first iteration.  As PlanPhilly grew, Goodman represented the publisher and provided professional planning input and project management support as the site expanded its beat coverage, went through multiple redesigns, conducted an internal strategic plan, and researched revenue generation opportunities.

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