Conservatives may speak of Chapel Hill as "the people's republic of Chapel Hill," and N.C. State fans may view the place as the devil's playground, and the Duke folks...well, never mind. But in one area, at least, the town is doing something that other cities...make that, Raleigh...could stand to copy.
Those who "earn" a parking ticket in the town get one free pass, a "courtesy ticket," per year so far as violating the rules on metered parking goes. This is making some good will, The News & Observer's Alicia Banks reports, particularly since that instead of a ticket, there's a note left that says, "Thank you for visiting downtown Chapel Hill."
I'll grant you Chapel Hill may be smaller by "and then some" than the Capital City and the money the town's losing can be easily absorbed in the budget. But Chapel Hill has a tremendous surplus of cars. In fact, during my orientation as a freshman student there some years back, one speaker said Chapel Hill had more cars per capita than any place in the United States. I don't know if that was the truth, or the ramblings of some guy who'd been towed on his way to give the speech. But it's a problem.
So this brings us to Raleigh, where the objective in downtown parking seems to be trying to compete with Ticketmaster. My friend Thad Woodard, president of the state Bankers Association, has long been the sort of Davy Crockett of parking, advocating an end to parking meters. I once tried to get him to chain himself to a meter in protest, but he wouldn't quite go for it, particularly when I told him I'd have to deny suggesting it if he threw my name out once they took him to jail.
Why couldn't Raleigh give people a pass once a year? And no matter how many answers to that question officialdom might come up with, the truth is it's not as if we're letting somebody off of a felony, for goodness sakes.
Well, unless the City Council has indeed made it a felony to go past the allotted time...