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Published: Saturday, 8/11/2001

Toledo can't seem to tame parking beast

If Toledo died today, here's what goes on the tombstone tomorrow: We never quite got that downtown parking thing right.

Not that we haven't wrestled with it since forever, mind you.

“I hate surface parking lots,” the mayor declared to the plan commission Thursday.

Hizzoner's disclosure, oddly enough, was meant to gain approval for his plan to - listen carefully - put in a surface parking lot.

Go figure.

This is indeed hard to fathom when Carty Finkbeiner is the same mayor about whom this sentence was written in 1996:

“He said he stands by his statement that he will allow additional surface parking lots in the downtown bus loop only if a court orders it.”

Hmmm. Judge Carty?

When it comes to the fate of the vacant land along Summit Street where the Federal Building recently stood, it's as if Hizzoner has a case of public policy ADD.

To all suggestions of peppering downtown with any more suburbanesque expanses of asphalt, Carty is firmly, squarely, resolutely against it.

Except when he's not.

He tried to woo the plan commission this week by saying no developers will sign on to reviving the old steam plant without parking assurances - and, wow, that nearby federal site is perfect!

But the plan commission chose to study the issue for 90 days, a date which - how I love Toledo politics - falls one day after the November election that will move the title “mayor” before someone else's name.

The commission seems to say: Maybe we'd make an exception to the surface-parking ban, if only you could give us some inkling of who or what might go into that steam plant. But all you say is if we pave it, they will come - and that's just not good enough to let some ugly back into downtown.

Or maybe they're not really saying that at all. Maybe that's just me. Either way, that site is spared a hot-asphalt fate until such time when cooler, more strategic heads might prevail.

Even Carty seems to recognize the inconsistency of his thinking. “You can talk all you want about a perfect world,” he lectured the plan commission, “but ... malls have made line-of-sight parking [the standard].”

Translated, that's essentially one big shrug of the mayoral shoulders: What the hey, we tried, but we gotta take what we can get, however ugly. This, from a guy who earned his reputation - no, his notoriety - being He Who Will Not Give Up, Even When It's Appropriate.

The mayor also argued that no potential steam plant restaurateur would ask patrons to walk 200 or 250 yards.

But I bet an extra-dry martini that anyone parking in the farthest reaches of the lot at The Docks is walking just about that distance to reach any one of the very popular restaurants there.

Earlier this week, in a largely unnoticed ceremony, the International Parking Institute (and who knew such a beast existed?) granted one of the four awards it gives annually to the new parking garage on downtown's Superior Street.

Why? Among the reasons cited, according to someone at the ceremony, was the idea that “we held out for better.”

Hey, we should make that a habit.

Roberta de Boer's column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays,

and Saturdays. Email her at roberta@theblade.com or call 1-419-724-6086.

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