Opinion: Parking (public parking on the square now has 27 fewer spots to make space for parliamentarians)

POSTED: 08/8/11 12:45 PM

The decision to stuff St. Maarten’s Parliament in a building in the center of town has obvious consequences. There is, for instance, no space to park near the Caribbean Palm building. While this seemed a nice opportunity for parliamentarians to get some exercise, they reverted to complaining instead.
The result arrived this weekend in the form of a steel barrier that blocks part of the public parking on Clem Labega Square. No less than 27 parking spots have now been nationalized, so to speak: only members of parliament and members of the parliament staff are allowed to park there.
This will make it even more complicated for the people our parliamentarians are supposed to serve to find parking in the center of town. With one third of the public parking now declared a no-go zone for tax-paying citizens, a lot of people will wonder why this was necessary.
After all, there are plenty of parking spaces near the new and unfinished government building on Pond Island. Apparently that is too far away for our parliamentarians, even though the walking distance (we have covered it countless times) is less than five minutes.
What we see here is a form of bad public relations and we really wonder what inspired the government to go along with this idea. Staff members at the parliament building are probably most of the day behind their desk inside the building. Parliamentarians show up for all kinds of meetings that last, in spite of the limits set for their buy cheap valium speaking time, sometimes like forever.
During all this time the ordinary citizen who needs to pop in at one of the banks around the square or who have to pick up some documents at the courthouse, will find that there is no place for them in the center to park anymore.
We wonder whether our parliamentarians will have to pay for the pleasure of parking on the square. The people who voted them into office, most of them minimum wage earners, have to pay a dollar for every hour or part of an hour that they park on the square.
The parking now loses 27 places and unless we are completely off base here, we suspect that parking for our politicians, who make an estimated $125,000 a year before taxes and excluding some 420,000 worth of benefits, is absolutely free.
At eight hours a day and conservatively estimating that each spot will bring in at least $16 a day (because people come in and leave at odd moments), Finance Minister Shigemoto is going to miss out on (27x$16x, say300 days) 129,600 guilders every year.
Wouldn’t it be a pleasant surprise if our MPs took their responsibility by going on the record saying that of course they will pay for the pleasure and the convenience offered to them by their government to have a reserves parking spot on Clem Labega Square and by offering their apologies to their voters for the inconvenience they are causing them?
Yeah, that would be sweet, wouldn’t it.

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