Column: Should city lawmakers regulate employee parking rates or focus on legislating land use?

Because it operates under Indiana state law, the city of Bloomington’s local government is divided along familiar lines—between legislative and executive branches.

But when it comes to policy on parking prices for city hall employees, that division is not easy to discern.

The distinction is hard to see, because on the question of regulating employee parking permit pricing for the city hall lot, city councilmembers have veered into the executive lane.

For a couple of years, Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, didn’t yield to the council. But last fall, as a part of the 2022 budget negotiations, Hamilton agreed to set up a pilot “parking cash-out” program for city hall employees.

The idea behind the “parking cash-out” program is to reward city employees who work in city hall but who don’t park in the lot. If they’re not parking in the lot, then they’re arriving at work in some way that is consistent with the city’s climate change and sustainability goals.

Under this year’s pilot program, an employee pays $200, instead of the old $2 nominal fee—but gets reimbursed by the city for the $200 cost. Employees who choose not to purchase a permit can instead request a taxable $200 “stipend.”

It’s not surprising that Hamilton’s administration has not been eager to try “parking cash-out” for its employees. That’s because the city of Bloomington’s circumstances—as the owner of the parking spaces in question—are different from those that apply in classic “parking cash-out” programs.

Further, by distracting themselves with city personnel issues that are beyond their knowledge and responsibility, city councilmembers have avoided addressing policies over which they have actual legislative control. Continue reading “Column: Should city lawmakers regulate employee parking rates or focus on legislating land use?”