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Parking on the Auction Block

The obvious solution is for the city to sell street parking permits at market price.

I see an opportunity for both Canton residents and the city in CP’s recent story about the Residential Permit Parking plan (“You Down With RPP?” Mobtown Beat, Feb. 6). The city owns something valuable (street parking in Area 43) that it’s giving away for free to the first drivers who show up. Unsurprisingly, the result is a shortage, and some people get squeezed out. They studied a form of rationing (giving street parking away for free to Area 43 residents) which, again unsurprisingly, makes everybody except Area 43 residents even unhappier.

The obvious solution is for the city to sell street parking permits at market price.

They could designate all or part of Area 43 as permit parking only and sell enough one-year permits to fill, but not overfill, those spaces. If the permits go too quickly, they raise the price next year. If some permits go unsold, they lower the price. Perhaps the first year could be an auction.

There are some details to work out. Should permits be sold to anybody? Only Baltimore City residents? Only Canton residents? Only Area 43 residents? What about employees of nearby businesses? Should the money go into projects that would make it easier to go car-free in Canton (the Red Line, other MTA projects, a garage) or just be dumped into city coffers? Should nonresidents be able to buy one-day permits? But any market-based system would help to alleviate the artificial scarcity created by free parking.

Allan Massie

Towson

Confronting the Kill Zone

I wanted to write and say myself and my colleagues in Historians Against the War enjoyed your recent piece on drone warfare and R+D at Hopkins (“The Kill Chain,” Feature, Jan. 30). Nicely done! We wanted to let you know that HAW and Towson University are sponsoring an anti-war conference/gathering April 5-7, at St. John’s Church downtown and also at Towson’s campus. I will attach our information for you, and I hope you might find it of interest. It would be great to see you there!

Matt Bokovoy

HAW Steering Committee

Lincoln, NE

No Show-Gloating

Larnell Custis Butler was correct about one thing (and one thing only) in her recent rant (“Stark Raven Mad,” The Mail, Feb. 6) about N-word “dancing.” There’s no reason legitimate enthusiasm has to turn into these outlandish and distasteful displays. Let me hasten to add: This is not a problem affecting only the Ravens. The NFL needs to institute a rule for “Intentional Gloating,” 15 yards penalty at the point of sack, tackle, or on the kickoff following the score that elicits the display. I’ll leave the dissection/rebuttal of the rest of her diatribe to others. By the way, wasn’t her 15 minutes up a long time ago?

John Grant

Baltimore

A License to Scalp?

Ten members of the City Council have sponsored a bill (“Making the city safe for Ticketmaster,” Mobtown Beat, Feb. 6) to at least temporarily allow Ticketmaster to continue to scalp tickets to events in Baltimore City, which is an apparent response to the decision of Maryland’s highest court—the Court of Appeals—in Bourgeois v. Live Nation, et al. In Bourgeois, the Court of Appeals held that charging service fees (or anything more than the established price of the ticket) violates Baltimore’s longstanding scalping ordinances. Each violation, that is, excess fees charged for each ticket sold, carries a $1,000 penalty, which the city could collect. Ticketmaster has sold thousands of tickets to Baltimore events in the past year alone—so just enforcing the law as it is written could result in significant revenue for the city, and at the same time protect Baltimore residents from paying exorbitant service charges. Instead of enforcing the law or collecting these penalties, Councilman Stokes says he’s been asked by the Mayor’s office to bring a bill to not enforce the law. Bill 13-0194 would temporarily allow Ticketmaster to continue to violate the ordinances—but, of course, it does not propose repealing the prohibition on scalping by the general public.

If enacted, this bill would expire on Nov. 1, 2013, at which time the old ticket-scalping ordinances will go back into effect. Is this a temporary measure to allow Ticketmaster time to get its house in order and sell tickets in a legal manner? Or is this the beginning of something nefarious that will allow Ticketmaster to continue to scalp tickets in Baltimore City? Only time will tell, but let’s hope it is the former.

And why would the City Council give Ticketmaster a free pass? The city has thrown at least one person in jail under the very same ordinances for simply including Ticketmaster’s service charge in the price when reselling his tickets.

The city’s willingness to cut at least a temporary break for Ticketmaster is particularly ironic in light of the recent efforts by the city to collect unfair penalties from its own citizens in order to raise revenue. Does the city have any problem collecting speed-camera fines from its citizens when we know the speed cameras are inaccurate? Or how about collecting exorbitant water bills when meters haven’t been read for years, and in many cases don’t even work properly? Other examples abound. The common thread in all of these examples is that Baltimore’s citizens lose. Is it right for big business to be held to a different standard than the city’s own residents?

That is not to say that Ticketmaster should not be paid. Ticketmaster provides a valuable service. But there is an honest, transparent, and legal way to get paid for that service under the current law, with all-in pricing—one price for the ticket, no added fees. Ticketmaster would get paid out of the price of the ticket, just like so many other businesses that get paid for their service out of the price of the product sold. Let’s hope the city is just giving Ticketmaster a few months to amend its contracts to do all-in pricing and not carving out an exception that gives Ticketmaster a license to scalp tickets.

Martin E. Wolf

Towson

(The author is a lawyer for the plaintiffs in a class action suit against Ticketmaster)

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