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Private parking slow going: No interest in cutting jobs
[June 05, 2008]

Private parking slow going: No interest in cutting jobs

(Gazette, The (Cedar Rapids, IA) (KRT) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Jun. 5--CEDAR RAPIDS -- Any plan to turn the city's downtown parking operation over to a private manager and send about a dozen longtime city employees packing isn't anywhere near happening.

In a spirited, hourlong debate, no one on the City Council last night seemed eager to hire a private management company to run the city's parking operation, although Doug Neumann, president/ CEO of the Downtown District, said many cities swear by the move to privatization as a way to get improved service, more expertise, newer technology, customer amenities and bettermaintained parking facilities.

Confronted by council member Monica Vernon at one point, who said she hadn't heard a clear statement of what the downtown parking problem is, Neumann pointed to a recent downtown parking study and years of displeasure from downtown property owners over the ways in which the city's downtown parking operation hurts the downtown.

Neumann, though, made it clear that the Downtown District was stopping short of pushing for privatization of the parking system. Downtown property owners would be happy if the city itself figured out a way to provide better service and more expertise, he said.

Getting the current city operation to become something more than it has been is one thing several council members, including Brian Fagan, Tom Podzimek, Justin Shields and Vernon, seemed to want to know about.

Todd Taylor, a state representative in House District 34 in Cedar Rapids and a staff representative for AFSCME, spoke to the council on behalf of the city parking employees who stood to lose their jobs if the council decided to privatize the operation.

Taylor called on the council to ask the employees -- whose average years of service to the city was 17 -- to help come up with ideas to make the current parking operation better.

Council members Shields,

president of Hawkeye Labor Council, Jerry McGrane and Chuck Wieneke said they had no interest in eliminating the jobs of employees simply because many of them now were at the top of their pay grades and had good city benefits.

Shields said this City Council talks on and on about its vision for a better city, and replacing good-paying jobs with low-paying ones wasn't part of the vision, he argued.

McGrane said cutting these jobs would send a bad signal the city's "loyal" employees.

Casey Drew, the city's finance director, said Republic Parking System could save the city an estimated $117,646 a year in personnel expenses.

Council member Pat Shey said that wasn't much money unless someone could make a "compelling" case for how a private manager could significantly improve service.

¦Contact the writer: (319) 3988312 or

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