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Logan mayoral candidates talk parking problems with USU students

September 12th, 2009 Posted in Opinion

By Brendon Butler

LOGAN — USU students may not realize it, but those who are residents of Logan and already registered to vote can cast a ballot for mayor and city council in the upcoming primary elections for Logan city on Tuesday, Sept. 15. The deadline has passed for students to register to vote in the primary election but they can still vote in the general election happening on Nov. 3 provided they register at the County offices before Oct. 19.

The USU Admissions office says they don’t keep records about how many students are eligible voters, but the USU Analysis, Assessment and Accreditation Web site lists 12,608 resident students in fall semester of 2008, many of whom could vote in their respective city’s municipal election.

To inform and inspire students to get involved, the four Logan mayoral candidates responded to one question of particular importance to USU’s student population: parking.

Parking has always been a problem for students who live in Logan or attend USU by car. The city-owned parking strips that had been used as overflow parking for many apartments and split-rental homes were reclaimed in a controversial move by Logan city last year, and residents were asked to begin parking on the street. Now there is talk of charging residents a $200 annual fee to park on the street. During the winter, street plowing is another issue that affects car owners, who must keep their cars off the street on certain nights and during snowstorms in order to allow the snowplows to do their work or risk towing and impound fees.

John Clay, a retired physicist and business chief administrative officer who says he decided to run for mayor because he wants to hold the city responsible to higher standards in planning and zoning, says he would immediately stop the city from reclaiming further parking strips and would never allow them to begin charging residents for parking passes. The problem could be solved by changing parking standards around Logan from parallel parking to diagonal or perpendicular, he says.

“The city’s blessed; we’ve got such wide streets. By running (the cars) up to the curb, I’d say you could have a snowplow run close to the aft end of the cars, and then treat that as the driveway and the local owners or residents then have to shovel it,” he says. “But you can’t hide those cars. The last city I lived in (Alameda, Calif.) had a much much worse parking problem than Logan does.”

Marc Haws, a Logan Parks and Recreation Dept. worker and self-described “biggest Aggie fan ever,” says he’s running for mayor because he’d like to represent more blue-collar workers and make the city government more transparent. He’d approach the parking problem by setting quarterly meetings between neighborhood councils and the city, he says.

“There’s not a blanket solution to this problem,” he says. “They should have invited the neighborhood councils to make these (parking strip) decisions.”

He would deal with the parking strips on a case-by-case basis, he says. As far as wintertime street plowing, Haws says he remembers that when he grew up in Logan car owners knew that when a snowstorm hit, it was time to pay attention and move the car off the street when the plows came through. It was largely the neighborhood’s responsibility, he says, and he’d like to return to that old way.

“Why should you fix something that’s not broken?” he asks.

Mike Morrill is a business owner and Logan native with seven kids. He wants to run for mayor because he loves the city he grew up in, he says. Parking for USU students is a problem, he agrees.

“We write tickets so fast if anyone parks, and we boot cars…I mean this is one of the fastest ticket-writing cities that I’ve seen. We invite folks to come here, to go to school, we invite them to come downtown and yet if you do that it really is a difficult place to park. I want to get that changed.”

The parking strip problem is heavy-handed, and the yearly parking pass would charge students unnecessarily for on-street parking, he says. The solution is just to allow people to park on the street without paying $200, he says.

Though he’d not put back any park-strips that have already been reclaimed by the city, he would stop the process and check each one individually before moving forward, he says.

“In no situations do I think government should ever do a blanket policy,” he says. “Not when we’ve had a 70-year tradition of properties using that park-strip.”

Incumbent candidate Randy Watts says he’s running for a second term as mayor because he’s got unfinished business to take care of, including building the city’s general fund reserve from the current $6 million to the recommended $13 million and finishing the 10th West north-south highway as soon as possible. The park-strip controversy enacted under his leadership has been criticized as heavy-handed unfairly, he says.

“We’ve got a lot of citizen input on the process,” he says. “Everyone thinks it was my agenda to go after park-strips, but it wasn’t. It was the citizen’s agenda. They wanted to reclaim their neighborhoods, and for all the negative we’re hearing on the park strips, there’s all the people that have lived there all their lives that have dealt with the park strips being abused. It isn’t true.”

Watts acknowledges that the park strips have been a contentious issue between landlords, who need the strips for tenant parking in crowded multiplexes, and home-owners, who think the multitudes of cars parked on the front lawns next to the sidewalk are driving down property values and creating safety hazards for children. Watts says he thinks the responsibility to provide parking lies with the landlords, who need to find other places for students to park either off-street or behind the property.

“Yeah, there’s more than a few issues,” says Watts. “I think the park-strip is more of a plus than a minus because there’s neighbors that have been beating out students saying, ‘Get your car off’ when it should be the landlords protecting the renters, and (the landlords) need to get into the heat of it to make sure their neighborhoods are where the students can come in and be accepted.”

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  1. One Response to “Logan mayoral candidates talk parking problems with USU students”

  2. By Braden on Sep 30, 2009

    Logan has a regional (western US) reputation for being a terrible place to park and drive, this is true. However, USU has an even worse reputation. I spend 35-45 minutes every afternoon looking for a place to park, even after I bought the rediculous parking pass. Yesterday, for example, I spent over half of my class time looking to park. I am a commuter student and if I can’t get to class, why should I stay at USU? All of the commuter students I talk to have the same problem and the Parking Office offers no help at all.

    Sure, there’s plenty of teaching going on in the classrooms at USU, but the students are in the parking lot.

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