I have received two tickets in the past week — one at UCSB for not parking exactly within the lines of a parking space (UCSB graciously dismissed this citation), and one for not having a front license plate. This license plate ticket was especially concerning, since I was parked in a parking structure when I received it. This means that the Santa Barbara Police Department is paying officers to walk around parking structures looking for excuses to write tickets.
We all realize that times are tough. The recession and slow economic recovery have caused severe budget cuts across just about all government departments, and the Police Department is no exception. While I sympathize with them and understand their financial challenges, I do not agree with their aggressive ticket-writing policy. It’s bad for local residents and it is especially damaging to tourism.
Tourism is the second largest industry in Santa Barbara, generating more than $1 billion per year in local revenues, including $80 million in tax revenue. Nickel-and-diming tourists with parking and traffic tickets is a bad idea, period. One ticket can ruin an otherwise enjoyable vacation for a visitor, which could make the difference in the decision to visit Santa Barbara in the future. The few dollars we gain by writing these nuisance tickets could cost us thousands in spending on hotels, food, shopping and other services. It’s just bad business.
I believe I am correct in assuming that the tax dollars we allocate to SBPD are intended to provide for officers to protect citizens from crimes, and to solve those crimes that occur. I don’t see how having officers roaming around parking garages writing tickets is accomplishing these objectives. I would be interested to know how many officers are assigned to these duties, instead of patrolling our streets, or investigating crimes.
In a more general sense, I have seen far too many instances in which local government is repeatedly doing things to impede business, which, frankly, we cannot afford. From the recent advisory board no vote on the Chick-fil-A patio changes, to the difficultly new restaurants have securing liquor licenses, to questions about traffic stops and police behavior, it seems that there is a disconnect between the objectives of our local government and what is needed to drive our economy forward.
In tough economic times, instead of finding ways to penalize businesses, delay approvals, punish visitors with irritating tickets, and otherwise hampering businesses and driving potential visitors/consumers away, our local government should be expediting approvals for licenses, remodeling, construction, signage or anything else that local companies need to conduct their business more efficiently and profitably.
We are struggling through the worst recession since the Great Depression, and one of the slowest recoveries on record. We are more than three years into this recovery, and we are not out of the woods yet by any stretch of the imagination.
The responsibility falls on us — on every local resident — to stand up and tell our local officials that we are not going to stand for this behavior from our elected officials, government employees and those appointed to committees and boards. Enough is enough.
I urge everyone to consider not just the impact on local citizens as individuals, but on our community as a whole. This anti-business, repressive, restrictive behavior is costing everyone in this community. The revenues that are lost due to refusals to approve projects, licenses, etc.; delays and restrictions, often resulting in projects being abandoned due to excessive cost or pure frustration; and the bad experiences of visitors who suffer at the hands of aggressive ticket writers are vital to the health of our local economy. Every dollar counts and we simply cannot afford for this behavior on the part of our local government to continue.
It is up to each one of us to stand up and say enough is enough. We must vote for representatives who understand that we need to support local businesses and stop this repressive, anti-business behavior permanently, and expedite projects to help businesses thrive. We need to tell our police force to stop harassing people and focus on preventing and solving crimes.
I hope everyone who reads this article will think about these important issues when voting in the next local election. It is hard enough for businesses during these trying economic times without our local government purposefully working against business owners at every turn. We can help local businesses survive and even thrive, but we must have the support of a pro-business local government at all levels. I certainly hope things change. We have seen far too many businesses close recently and I fear we will see many more before the economy improves.