A push by South Lake Tahoe Mayor Hal Cole to reconsider the city’s paid parking program this week instead of a month from now fizzled at a special City Council meeting Monday.
Already on the calendar for reconsideration on Feb. 18, Cole wanted the paid parking issue bumped up to this week’s regular meeting agenda. But he couldn’t find the four of five City Council votes he needed to make that happen.
According to Cole, the paid parking issue is ripe for reconsideration with enough information available to discuss the potential cost of dismantling or changing parts of the program.
“Right now, it’s probably the biggest issue in the city. I don’t think it’s the most important,” Cole said of paid parking. “I wanted to move it up from February to January. I thought it was in the best interests of the community.”
South Lake Tahoe’s paid parking is in the crosshairs of a group of people gathering signatures for a ballot initiative. The proposed initiative language would repeal paid parking everywhere except in city-owned parking garages and on Ski Run Boulevard south of Pioneer Trail.
Members of the group on Monday predicted they have or will have enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot either in the June primary or the November general election.
The group is quickly running up against deadlines for the June primary.
“I can tell you we have the signatures,” John Cefalu told the council. “We did so within three weeks. If that doesn’t send a message that this is a burning issue to a lot of people in this community, take notice.”
At the 7:30 a.m. special meeting Monday, Cole and Councilman Tom Davis supported moving the paid parking discussion up to the council’s regular meeting Tuesday, Jan. 14.
“I want it sooner than later,” Davis said about the paid parking discussion.
“This is the first time I can think of that a petition has been circulated. We need to look at that. It gets my attention and I think it needs to get all of our attention,” he said.
Council members Brooke Laine and JoAnn Conner opposed moving the discussion up from February.
“It does deserve full discussion and information and I don’t see where we can have that tomorrow,” Conner said.
“If it goes to a vote, it goes to a vote. That’s the democratic process. But to push something of this magnitude through quickly is not something I’m prepared to do.”
Councilwoman Angela Swanson said she was struggling with two views: One that wanted to support the mayor and his request to accelerate the paid parking issue and another that saw the request as a “knee jerk reaction” catering to one portion of the city electorate.
Swanson left the special meeting for another obligation before the matter was put to a vote.
As mayor, Cole could have simply opted to make paid parking an agenda item at Tuesday’s regular meeting. He chose not to do that without the support of other council members.