When the city turned over a can of worms by holding that underpublicized public meeting on downtown parking last week, they turned over a container that has been upside down many times before.
A column by Tim Chitwood made officials rush to their reserved parking spaces to schedule another hearing to discuss the possibility of charging people $1 an hour to park on downtown streets.
It started when Uptown Columbus Inc. hired a group to study parking -- not to be confused with a study on changing one-way streets in that same part of town. Findings were announced and only 20 people showed up. After Chitwood's column, three more public hearings were scheduled -- two to discuss traffic flow (that study on one-way streets) and one for parking.
But don't blame Uptown Inc. CEO Richard Bishop. This flap began in 1828 when three early settlers paid an out-of-town landscape architect to plan the first city park in the middle of Broad Street. To compliment sycamore trees, shrubs and grass, a local lawyer planted some New England elms.
In the early 1900s, a furor developed over trolley tracks and 20 years later automobiles were the issue. Fees weren't the problem. Angle parking created the first controversy.
Parking meters arrived during World War II, and in 1948 the first proposal to slice off some of the median was made, bringing a howl from garden club members.
Trees came down in 1951, after a bloody slaughter of birds that were a downtown nuisance. The bird killing came in the summer of 1949 when police sharpshooters rattled the tops of trees on Broadway.
Around 3,000 birds died that night, all in the name of clean windshields. In retaliation, other birds moved in and built updated nests.
The United Garden Clubs added fountains to the median in 1955, and two years later the city begged for more parking, sparking meetings that excited lawyers on both sides.
In 1960, the Metropolitan Planning Commission conducted an extensive study of downtown parking. The core of the proposal from this blue-ribbon group was to turn Broadway into a pedestrian mall. No cars. Just people. This study went straight to the curb.
A 1959 ordinance called for Herringbone Parking. Simply put, that was parallel parking along the median and angled parking along the curb. That plan was eventually scuttled and so were downtown parking meters.
We've spent a lot of money on studies. They come about every 10 years. We've heard suggestions of angled parking, parallel parking, paved malls, one-way streets, parking zones and parking garages. We were told we needed an "IT," country music bars and canals down the middle of Broadway. Urban whitewater rafting is our current solution -- and hopefully it is.
But nobody mentioned that whitewater rafting would require us to get out our debit card to pick up a pair of pants we had hemmed at Chancellor's.
-- Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.