Sarasota News Leader

06/06/2014

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We are not sure what would put Patterson's back "to the wall," but we believe a heart attack patient dying because EMTs could not reach him or having residents perish in a house fire because the blocked street prevented fire trucks from getting to the conflagration are the sorts of risks that should have made the commissioners feel their backs already were "to the wall." The commission was confronted with a well-vetted problem. It had been discussed for many months, the county's fire chief had weighed in that continued parking created a public safety hazard, residents and Siesta Key organizations had voiced their opin- ions in support of eliminating the hazard ... and yet the board still dealt with it in a slap- dash manner. Perhaps even worse than refusing to allow towing as an enforcement tool for the park- ing ban, the commissioners allow a laughably small fine for parking infractions — only $25. And, as should have been expected back in October, the influx of tourists during sea- son translated into no reduction in ille- gal parking along the length of Avenida de Mayo. No one really could blame the tour- ists. Parking along Av e n i d a d e M a y o puts one very close to the center of Siesta Key Village, where available parking spaces during high-traffic periods are almost a myth. Scoring a close-in spot for only $25 must have seemed like a bar- gain to most visitors to the island, certainly as evidenced by the almost nonstop illegal use of the "no parking" zone for months after the commissioners established it. Pity the poor deputies of the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office, who were given the pointless task of writing tickets that were received almost with relief by parking scoff- laws. It seems a rather inappropriate use of the capabilities of a trained law enforce- ment professional to second him as a parking lot attendant. So, after months of complaints and inves- tigation by county officials, the County Commission dropped the ball and did vir- tually nothing to ameliorate the problem of illegal parking on Avenida de Mayo. The pub- lic safety hazard still exists. Residents are still frustrated by blocked driveways and wall-to- wall vehicles along the right of way of the street. Where do we go from here? First, the fines imposed for illegal parking need to be increased signifi- cantly and tiered. The first infraction should carry a $50 fine, the second should carry a $100 fine and the third infraction should carry a $150 fine, plus t h e c a r s h o u l d b e towed. According to The commission was confronted with a well-vetted problem. It had been discussed for many months, the county's fire chief had weighed in that continued parking created a public safety hazard, residents and Siesta Key organizations had voiced their opinions in support of eliminating the hazard ... and yet the board still dealt with it in a slapdash manner. OPINION Sarasota News Leader June 6, 2014 Page 88

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