January 2, 2010
Staff furlough oops means no tickets for expired meters in downtown Walnut Creek Saturday!
Yeah, you can kind of park for free on the street in downtown Walnut Creek today--a bonus meter holiday if you will. Normally, city meters are enforced on Saturdays. But not today, I've just been told by police.
You'll see why if you go downtown. A bunch of parking meters are out of order, the little yellow flags in their windows indicating as much. Soccer Son and I, out for a Starbucks run this morning, drove up and down Locust and Main Streets between Bothelo and Civic and counted 55 out-of-order meters alone. We didn't get a chance to check out Broadway or cross streets like Olympic, Cypress and Bonanza.
Blame the Great Recession for this Oops in the city's parking meter program. Or blame an unforseen consequence of the city putting most of its city staff on furlough between December 24 and January 3, to offset budget shortfalls.
A reliable tipster tells me that every city department was affected by the furloughs, except for police, police dispatch, and parking enforcement. The rest of the city departments either had no one in office, or a skeleton crew. Among those furloughed were those staff members who go around collecting coins from all the downtown parking meters.
Guess what happened? A lot of the meters filled up to capacity. My tipster contacted me on Thursday, saying that visitors to downtown found meters so stuffed they were blinking "Out of Order." My tipster also says that parking enforcement officers were told to stop issuing citations for even expired meters.
Yesterday, Friday, was New Year's Day, a city-designated meter holiday. But today is not. Still, with the coin collectors not returning to work until Monday, visitors, choosing to park in the street, will get a bonus holiday. The police department just confirmed to me that parking enforcement officers will not be issuing tickets for expired meters.
We parked at an Out of Order meter in front of Starbucks, and were prepared to feed coins into the slot, just to see what would happen, but a quarter was stuck in there.