PARKatlanta is Awful. Does it Require Legislation?

PARKatlanta, the private parking enforcement firm that the City of Atlanta contracted with in 2009, maintains that it is “a collaborative initiative led by the City’s Department of Public Works that is modernizing the City’s parking operations to improve convenience, access, fairness, and service for City motorists, residents, businesses, and visitors.” Pretty much everyone who has ever encountered PARKatlanta disagrees that there is anything convenient, accessible, or fair about the contractor, which is operated by Milwaukee-based Duncan Solutions.  There are some gems in the Yelp reviews of PARKatlanta:

PARKatlanta is exactly what you get when a company is given way too much power.”

“These guys are ruthless.

“And seriously, there is zero incentive for them to not suck, considering the contract they have with the city.” 

“This is a city that has poor infrastructure, poor signage, and no shortage of parking whatsoever.  Park Atlanta takes advantage of this situation to write tickets every chance it gets.”

“Park Atlanta is a real black eye on the city.”

“Park Atlanta has NO CHILL…”

Since its early days, PARKatlanta was accused of nastiness like writing fraudulent tickets, and there are multiple accounts of generally shady behavior on the part PARKatlanta employees. The City of Atlanta allowed PARKatlanta, which is arguably an absolute hot mess, to happen. But to the City’s credit, it seems clear that several City officials, including Mayor Kasim Reed, are “not inclined to renew” Atlanta’s deal with PARKatlanta when the contract expires this September.

Yet this reluctance to renew the contract isn’t enough for Senator Vincent Fort (D-39). Sen. Fort sponsored SR 809, which would prohibit any city in Georgia from entering into a contract with a private company for parking enforcement services. He explained that because elected officials are directly accountable to voters, the government should handle its own parking enforcement. But that statement assumes that elected officials aren’t accountable to their constituents when a private company they contract with, whether it’s for garbage pickup or to run their city, completely FUBARs their one job, as PARKatlanta did with parking enforcement.

Atlanta residents, business owners, and visitors have made their feelings extremely clear to Mayor Reed and the city council, and Mayor Reed and many on the council have responded by making it clear that they have no inclination to continue the relationship with PARKatlanta.

City governments make mistakes. For that matter, so do counties, states, and the federal government. And yes, PARKatlanta was a really big mistake. Since Atlanta has indicated that they are going to correct this mistake, statewide legislation is unnecessary. Oh – and here’s where I remind GeorgiaPol readers that there is no love lost between Mayor Reed and Sen. Fort. None. That said, Sen. Fort’s feud with Mayor Reed is an utterly invalid reason for proposing legislation that would only accomplish two things: it lets Sen. Fort let Atlanta voters know that he really hates PARKatlanta, and it further chips away at local control for cities in Georgia.

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