Karl Douglass: Common ground

June 30, 2013 

A lot happened last week. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope became a first round NBA Draft pick. George Zimmerman's trial started. The Supreme Court issued major rulings on the Voting Rights Act and Defense of Marriage Act. The United States Senate passed the first major immigration reform bill in two decades.

Any of those subjects would provide great material for today's column.

Let's talk about parking instead.

Thursday, the school district's attorney directed staff at the Columbus Public Library to stop telling people their cars would be towed if they parked in front of the library to go into the City Services Center. Why did the school district's attorney have to issue this directive?

The library is a facility that was built with taxpayer dollars. And, since the funding mechanism was a sales tax, it truly is a facility for which all of us paid.

Likewise, the City Services Center is a facility that was built with taxpayer dollars. Again, the funding mechanism was a sales tax. Again, it truly is a facility for which all of us paid.

The decision to locate the library, City Services Center, Public Education Center and natatorium on the same site created a civic common by default. The entire site is publicly funded and intended for broad public use.

So why does it matter if I park in the surface lot at the library when I need to go to the City Services Center or park in the deck to make my way to the library? When a mall sat on that same site, many of us parked at one end and walked to the other. Now that the site is a civic common, why should the rules change?

The Ledger quoted one official saying, "We know that they're (city) customers because they were there at 8:30 this morning, and we don't open until 10." I challenge that notion. Any person who accesses any building on the site is a customer of the local government. Different entities may have jurisdiction over each of the buildings, but every building on the site is a public facility funded with taxpayer dollars.

I appreciate the action of the school district's attorney to address an urgent issue. However, to me, there is not much need for further discussion about which parking lot should be used by whom. The entire site belongs to the people. The geography of convenience should determine who parks where and when.

Relative to the major events of the week, this issue may seem small. But that doesn't mean it is not important. Citizens at all levels must constantly remind those in office that government derives its power from the consent of the governed. Many times, the starkest reminders of this principle are evidenced in the smallest acts of government.

Karl Douglass, Columbus native and resident, is a frequent commenter on local, state and federal politics. Follow him on Twitter@KarlDouglass or facebook.com/karldouglass.

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