I live nearby the great new stadium, close enough that I was required to purchase an orange parking-permit sticker for my car window.
It cost $20 and caused much excitement in the neighborhood.
At the mayor's station where we bought our stickers at the appointed hour, I saw many of my neighbors angry that the government was soaking them for $20. Twenty dollars for what? To park my own car in front of my own house?
And get this, it's $20 per car. A man who lives two doors down from me owns two cars and two motorcycles. And seeing as garages do not exist in the area, this man has now been forced to pay $80 to park his vehicles. I tell you, I saw outrage at the mayor's station. ''This is an atrocity!'' said one citizen.
So now the great stadium unveiling has taken place and the season is under way and what have been the results on the streets of my neighborhood?
The streets are freer of cars than at any time in my six years here. Game or no game, the new and hopelessly complex parking signs (my wife and I stood on the sidewalk reading one carefully and had to shake our heads at the data overload) have scared off prospective parkers of unauthorized vehicles. I now have no trouble finding a place to park, whereas in the pre-sticker days I had a terrible time, day or night.
Far less trivial is another result. It seems that the police are now patrolling our streets in greater numbers, looking for parking violators.
This is good news. My neighborhood -- not to mince words -- is a high-crime and homeless area. Yes, the police patrolled the area even before we had our new, protective parking signs, but the more the better and there are indeed more now.
It's too soon to say that the crime has actually decreased, but we neighbors sense that it has, and will not be surprised when statistics bear this out. As for the homeless, it seems they will always be with us regardless of the parking situation.
Back at the mayor's station we were told that it is a $54 fine (after towing charges) for parking on our streets without a sticker. We are anxious to provide reasons for the police to continue patrolling our streets, therefore we are anxious to turn in parking violators.
This parking-sticker controversy has taken a welcome and unexpected turn of events.
Is this what the government planned all along? It didn't sound that way back at the mayor's station, where pacifying rumors were floated by employees to defuse the volatile situation. Maybe we'd get our money back. Yeah, a rebate, fat chance. But then that night on TV, there was Mayor Schmoke saying, well, maybe something could be worked out, and let's everybody just calm down a little.
Well, Mayor Schmoke, something has been worked out. The government, knowingly or otherwise, has hit on something here in South Baltimore. With one swift legislative stroke, the government has both added revenue to its depleted budget and made these mean streets a shade less mean.
Hear ye, hear ye, the government shows the keen glance of genius.
Dennis Bartel is a free lance.