Opinion: Parking woes (on St. Maarten)

POSTED: 08/9/11 12:04 PM

The first day parliamentarians were able to use their reserved parking places on the Clem Labega Square did not pass without incidents, and by the looks of it, not all MPs were aware that they are now entitled to park on a cordoned off part of the parking lot.
Because there are no public notices anywhere indicating that the parking lot facing the RBTT-bank is now off limits for ordinary motorists, the steel barrier that was supposed to keep intruders out did not impress anyone. Therefore, rental cars, cars with French license plates and cars that did not belong to any politicians easily found their way onto the empty tarmac.
That did not please the security guard on duty at the government administration building. At around nine thirty in the morning, we observed him charging across the parking lot towards the booth where a lady sells tickets to paying motorists. The man was not amused, we could tell, because he was screaming at the top of his voice.
Apparently, it was up to the lady in the booth to keep intruders out of the now sacred parking space. But how do you go about that when you are sitting inside a booth, minding the government’s money?
So the security guard got an ear full from her – and rightly so, we thought, because screaming is not the way to treat a lady. One MP passed by when the ruckus went down (it was Jules James of the UP-faction) but he did not bother to interfere: he just laughed and went about his business.
Within the sanctity of the parliament building, National Alliance leader William Marlin voiced his own opinion about the parking issue. There were already eleven reserved spaces near the government administration building, he said. Those were for members of the now defunct Island Council. All they had to do was add another four places, and the problem would have been solved.
But apparently, we hear, Parliament President Gracita Arrindell had other and even further-reaching plans to secure parking for herself, her colleagues and the parliament staff. Arrindell had her eyes on the spot just behind the courthouse that is now occupied by tourist market vendors. To create that parking, the vendors would have had to move, probably to nowhere, and that just have been the main reason why this pipe dream went down the tubes.
The wish to have parking near the parliament building is apparently driven by security issues. Just imagine that MPs sit in a meeting until, say, two o’clock in the morning, and then they have to walk to their car. The things that could happen during the five minute walk to any nearby parking lot are too horrible to imagine. Just ask any tourist who has just had a good time anywhere on the island.
But there are solutions for such situations: if MPs really are concerned about their safety, they could ask to be accompanied by a security guard (one of the kind that does not run away at the first sign of trouble).
Then there is, of course, the fact that MPs are now taking away public parking space from us all. And on top, they won’t have to pay for the pleasure. Instead, the free parking will cost the government approximately according to our own conservative estimate) around 130,000 guilders in lost revenue every year.
One MP already told us (and we will be kind enough this time not to mention his name) that he cannot afford to pay for the parking.
Ai ai ai …., we are sorely tempted to put his name in the story after all, but doing that will probably kill any possibility that parliamentarians will come to their senses about the parking issue. Therefore, we leave it up to the reader’s imagination, and up to MPs to make their own positions on the issue clear.
The way we see it, it won’t be long before the Parliament will decide (with pain in all hearts, for sure) to hire an extra security guard to oversee their public-private parking. It will cost a fistful of dollars of course, but hey, it’s also a form of job creation. That has a high feel-good content in these economic challenging times. And the beauty is that the gesture does not cost our MPs a penny. The tax payer will foot the bill.

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