1955 was the year of Elvis Presley, President Dwight Eisenhower and sock hops. It was the year Disneyland opened in California and the original McDonalds franchise served its first burger. It was also the year the Miami Parking Authority came into being.
In 1955, the Miami Parking Authority was created by the Florida Legislature as a self-sustaining agency that collects parking revenue in the city of Miami. The MPA collects money from meters, lots and garages to fund its operations and turns over profits to the city. The MPA’s budget is approved by the City Commission, but otherwise the MPA is separate and apart from the city.
Mayor Tomas Regalado wants to change that. The mayor is supporting a charter question on the November ballot asking Miami voters to transfer parking enforcement powers from MPA to the city.
“We want to do with that independent agency what we have done with every department in the city,” Regalado told me during a taping of News & Views.
“We want to look into it, reduce expenses, reduce salaries, reduce waste and reduce pensions. We want to make it business friendly and resident friendly.”
Really? The city of Miami—the same city that gave away the Port of Miami, demolished the Orange Bowl and let the Marine Stadium turn into a vacant graffiti canvas– now wants to be entrusted with an agency that has $200 million in assets, turns a $2 to $5 million profit, and has done a pretty good job of enforcing parking for 55 years?
Sure, Regalado told me.
“Yes, the city of Miami has a bad track record, but this city administration and this commission has brought back accountability. We have confronted the unions, imposed contracts and cut $88 million in salaries and pensions. We’ve reduced government operations by $30 million. We have done things no other city in America has done.”
Those arguments don’t convince Parking Authority board member Tom Jelke, who says the takeover is a money grab by the city.
“Mayor Regalado is interested in taking over the assets of the authority,” Jelke said. “Parking is money and money and politicians leads to corruption.”
Jelke said the city needs to keep its hands off the MPA.
“For 55 years we’ve run it like a business and been good stewards of the public’s money. We are the only profitable piece of the city of Miami because of that independence,” he said.