One of the things Charles I. Ecker is discovering now that he's in office is that not even the county executive can cut through red tape easily.
He had promised during the campaign that one of his first official acts would be to take down the parking meters in front of the county office building.
For him, the meters were a sign that county government was aloof, protected and inaccessible -- three things he wanted very much wanted to change. Tearing down the meters would be a sign he meant business.
Since the election, however, Ecker has learned that unscrewing the meter heads and putting them in storage may not accomplish what he wants. The problem, it seems, is that if the spaces are free, the wrong people may park in them for too long a time.
Take county employees, for example. Unless they arrive very early or have enough clout to command a reserved space, most have to park in a lot down a steep hill in back of the county building. It's a long walk any time, but especially on cold, winter days.
Regardless, Ecker does not want employees usurping spaces for long periods of time in front of his office. He would prefer that his employees, rather than the public, make the hillside trek and said so at his first meeting with department heads Tuesday.
So rather than remove the meters altogether, Ecker asked his staff to prepare a plan that would cloak the meters with a sign asking people not to use the free space for more than an hour.
Police cadets would patrol the metered spaces from time to time to make sure no one was cheating. Those that were would be given tickets.
If too many people cheat, the county would just have to unveil the meters again, Ecker said, only this time charge a more nominal fee, like a nickel. Metered spaces now cost 25 cents per hour.
Until the meter cloaks arrive, however, the meters will remain in use and police cadets will continue to ticket cars that park overtime.
Last year, the county received $5,628 from the meters.