Ideas, idle gossip and occasionally important odds ‘n’ ends
SOMETIMES, common sense does prevail. Witness the decision by Cape May City Council to replace some of the electronic parking meters that have been confounding tourists (AND locals) ever since they were installed four years ago. This column spent much of the summer criticizing the meters, which were a bad idea for so many reasons, and let’s once again list those reasons, because – while we feel the city has made a good decision – the council hasn’t gone far enough:
1. They were introduced specifically so that tourists could pay for parking with credit cards, rather than fish around for quarters. But credit cards failed to work on a very regular basis. Hardly a day went by when we would stroll around town and NOT see a visitor being driven nuts.
2. The signage was abysmal. More often than not, a tourist wouldn’t even know there was a meter system in place. One unexpected parking ticket + one angry tourist = a fair chance of said tourist not returning.
3. Even if you DID by chance see a sign that said you had to pay for parking, your next challenge was figuring out the number of your parking bay. The numbers that were painted on the curb were easily chipped away, often rendered illegible, and sometimes they disappeared altogether. On some of the spaces on Ocean Street you actually have to walk on to the road to see the number, which sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen.
4. It’s very difficult to read the meter display in sunlight, due to the screen’s reflective surface.
5. It’s very difficult to read the meter display in sunlight, due to the screen’s lack of illumination.
That’s a LOT of things going wrong with one pesky parking meter. Which is why we urge City Manager Bruce MacLeod and the city council members to replace every single one of these critters. Bruce told city council last week that only 40 of the new meters would be replaced – on streets between Beach Avenue and the mall.
Bruce said that the problem with the meters was the lack of signage. “That was due to our nice tree-lined streets,” he added. Um, Bruce… what about the other problems listed above? And were the streets not all nicely tree-lined when the city decided to install the new system? Tree-lined streets aren’t a new phenomenon in Cape May.
Bruce also said the city hoped tourists would have become familiar with the new system by now but admitted that “we’ve gone beyond the point” where people would have worked them out. Exactly, Bruce! We’ve gone way beyond that point. So replace the whole damn lot of them. Last year Bruce also told us that the city had around 300 of the old meters laying around, so the city wouldn’t have to waste money buying meters.
IT HAS always seemed shockingly unfair that the owners of bed and breakfast inns, motels and hotels had to add 14% in various taxes onto their bills, while those who rake in tens of thousands of dollars every summer by renting their condos or private homes paid nothing in taxes. No wonder that, in recent years, B&Bs have either been sold or converted into condos, a trend that is NOT good news for Cape May. So, we’re happy to see that the city is backing the progress of a bill called the Seaside Lodging and Rental District Act, which would level the playing field and apply a total tax of 7% to all of the above.
Let’s face it, 14% is a HUGE add-on to any bill and it can only have hurt the motel and hotel business in Cape May, as well as other seaside resorts in New Jersey. And the great news is that, according to calculations made by the Cape May Hotel/Motel Owners Association, Cape May would receive more than $3 million a year as a result of this new tax, and a third of that, by law, would have to be spent on tourism promotion. Right now, a pathetic amount of money (in our opinion) is spent on promoting tourism in Cape May. By contrast, Ocean City had billboards along Route 95 in Philadelphia just before the Walt Whitman bridge into New Jersey. We’re not sure how effective it was, but it’s a potent reminder to potential tourists.
ANOTHER thank you is in order for Lucky Bones bartender Bill Miller. The music at Lucky Bones was markedly better this past Saturday, and he assured us that is was all his doing.