Vernon Morning Star columnist and former editor Glenn Mitchell was surprised to find a parking ticket after a mid-pandemic stroll through downtown. (File)

Mitchell’s Musings: Pandemics and parking meters don’t add up

Despite COVID-19 crisis, City of Vernon insists on paid parking downtown

Editor’s note: This column was submitted March 31 before Vernon city council moved to waive enforcement of metered and two-hour parking downtown. The issue will return before council April 27 for further consideration.

I was picking up a prescription from a downtown Vernon pharmacy last week when I had a decision to make: Do I plug the meter as a law-abiding citizen should under normal circumstances?

Is the city still collecting quarters and loonies from meters during a pandemic when so many have lost their jobs? Especially when downtown is deserted due to only essential services and a few others being actually open for business?

Parking isn’t exactly at a premium these days. In fact, the demand is so low, it’s frightening for all concerned.

I decided the odds of meter maids (sorry, bylaw enforcement officers) being on the job was very low, and besides, I was only going to be a few minutes. So I wandered off to do the task at hand fairly worry-free, well at least as worry-free as you can be these days.

I accomplished the task quickly and, on impulse, after depositing the package in my truck, decided to take a walk downtown and survey the landscape while getting my daily constitutional in at the same time. I was shocked how quiet it was on a Tuesday afternoon and how much the world had changed in just a few short days due to an invisible, tiny entity that was bringing the modern world, including Vernon, literally to its knees.

I couldn’t help but muse over the different ways business owners explained speedy shutdowns for an undetermined period of time in notes affixed to the front doors of their premises. Everything from short, terse “Closed until further notice” to long passionate essays on why it’s best for everyone concerned that their doors remain shut at this time.

Bottom line, it was a sad scene with many, many victims. The silence was as deafening as it was alarming.

At least the restaurants were trying to make the best of a bad situation by posting new hours for takeout menus at discounted prices. That’s great for them, their staff and us who depend on them to supplement our lack of cooking prowess.

Lots to think about as I meandered back to my truck, hopped in and headed for home where I would soon do my best to create a home-cooked meal that didn’t suck. I had only gone about a block when I noticed the small piece of paper flapping from under my passenger-side window wiper.

In a nanosecond I forgot about all the people, including the entire downtown population of businesses, that were so negatively affected by the coronavirus and went on a first-world, self-righteous rant about how dare anyone give me a bylaw offence notice.

“Oh sure, they close the parks, pool, playgrounds and everything else that starts with ‘p,’ never thinking that parking meters aren’t exactly an essential service? They lay off over 100 people but keep on staff to monitor the three or four parking stalls that are actually being used? I mean I hate to see anybody lose their jobs, even bylaw officers who normally provide an important service under thankless circumstances, but this particular service is not needed at this time. Any revenue collected, including my $15, can’t be enough to justify officers patrolling empty streets just waiting for me to screw up.”

Of course, my rant at the time wasn’t that articulate and mostly internal seeing how there was no one else in the truck at the time.

It didn’t help that I found out later the City of Kelowna had suspended on-street parking fees that very day due to a precipitous drop in demand and to help out businesses that remained open.

I know, I know, in the grand scheme of things, especially now, my $15 parking ticket is bottom-barrel stuff. Maybe lower. Still, I would encourage city hall to suspend parking fees downtown for the time being. It’s very bad optics and we don’t want people gassing up and going to Kelowna for free parking.

However, some might even say it was karma that I got a ticket for not only not plugging the meter, but for also taking a walk downtown when we’re supposed to be at home self-isolating, except for trips to the pharmacy.

Guilty, guilty and !@#$%^&.

Glenn Mitchell is a columnist and former editor of the Morning Star.

mitchchap1@outlook.com.

READ MORE: COVID-19: No tickets for parking downtown Vernon

READ MORE: BREAKING: Inmate at Okanagan Correctional Centre tests positive for COVID-19

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