Mirror Contributing Writer
Economist John Kenneth Galbraith passed away last week at the age of 97. He was a giant of American political thought much of the last century serving four Presidents, perhaps most notably John F. Kennedy, whose New Frontier challenged all Americans to “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” Perhaps as no academic economist before or since, Galbraith merged economic theory with profound issues of power, wealth and the social responsibility the empowered owe the disenfranchised.
Political clout and the disenfranchised have been top-of-mind of late in my own neighborhood. After several years of trying, my neighbors got enough signatures to flex their political muscle in City Hall and initiate permit parking along the 800 block of 14th St. (immediately south of Montana Ave.). Whereas before the public utilization of parking at my doorstep was near capacity, it now runs a daytime vacancy rate of approximately 30-50 percent.
Economists have a word for just about every human behavior and in this instance, the word is “hoarding.”
There is nothing inherently evil about hoarding, unless, of course, there are injured parties. I suggest that the empty daytime curbs along my block injure two parties. First are the residents of nearby blocks who have yet to consolidate their power and weaponize their curbs with regulatory privilege enforced by those dastardly $47 parking tickets (should be $12). As our curbs sit empty, more and more vehicles have to squeeze space along the still unrestricted curbs of adjacent blocks.
The second injured group are the working folks in the businesses along Montana who used to park along our block in the daytime, but now need a permit to park for more than two hours. It strikes me as a stunning inconsistency that a city at the national forefront of the “living wage” issue, would snatch heretofore “living” parking away from hard working people, some immigrants, who brew the coffee, sweep the floors and otherwise perform the entry level job services for Montana merchants. They come from East LA, Inglewood and other distant locations to work in Santa Monica and seek nothing more than a wage to feed their families.
John Kenneth Galbraith was not shy about offering solutions and I have a solution of my own for Santa Monica’s parking woes – the alleys. By my reckoning, there are thousands and thousands of untapped parking spaces waiting along our alleyways. Like other beach cities, let’s make use of this resource. Make the alleys one-way, paint parking spots, issue one-on-one permits to residents who ask only permission to block their own personal garage door without getting one of those dastardly $47 parking tickets (should be $12). We can do it!
Sure utilizing the alleys will take some effort, some creativity and even some cooperation. But we are all in this together and I propose a whole new attitude: Ask not what your city can do for you – ask what you can do for your city.