Salem’s downtown is our neighbor and our friend.  Its businesses create a unique center and lure us to visit and shop.  Downtown delivers our sense of community.  These blocks provide a major property tax base for our city.

NOW, Salem’s government intends to install parking meters downtown that will harm our city.

As successful businesswoman, I believe that meters are counterproductive. Customers should never have to pay directly for the honor to shop in my store.

Unfortunately, of all the parking meters available, the Mayor’s Parking Task Force selected  the scattered Portland-style meter stations.    Without public hearings, nor community discussion, shoppers will be regulated by the deadliest of all monsters: inconvenient parking meters.

I am convinced these silent, threatening, Parking Meter Monsters will kill downtown.

Just when optimistic new investors are invigorating our city center updating the allure of Downtown, and Oregon’s economy is bouncing back, “Pay and Display” Station meter stations will soon appear, one in each block.  These stations force shoppers to leave their car, find a machine, pay for a receipt and return it to inside their car door, before shopping.  Imagine doing this preliminary task in a hurry, or with small children, or as a disabled senior.

Like every downtown, Salem’s prosperity exists with a balanced, unwritten covenant between business and customers.  The store, shop, foodie, tavern or office takes the risk, hires the staff and brings the selection – the shopper ultimately rewards with a purchase.

City governments everywhere don’t understand retailing.  In their never-ending search for more money, they must beware of inserting new policies to upset this applecart.

The Downtown Parking Task Force project began hopefully enough last year.  The original intent was to listen to the public first, to both the business owners and the customers. Hear them share their needs and dreams, perhaps in our Library’s auditorium, and from those conversations, develop potential strategies at open meetings.

Instead, Task Force and city staff members met at 7:30 a.m. in the library’s lower-level Anderson Room; seated in a “U” with their backs to the public they were meant to serve. As the months passed there was never an opportunity for the public to speak. Knowing the importance of free parking, I attended anyway, just to observe.

We are all badly served with the decision to buy “Pay and Display” Stations to be scattered downtown.

We have a wealth of knowledge and experience in our community, but there was no opportunity for the sharing of the people’s expertise.  When government rejects public input it can act against the best interests of its constituency.  The community suffers. I’m sad, it seems the Parking Task Force has not served us well.

This form of democratic decision-making disappoints me.  If you are disappointed too, swamp the email circuits!

Speak UP!!!

Britta Franz, called “one of Salem’s most retail minded citizens,” has lived in Oregon most of her life.  She operated a successful group of fashion stores for many years, headquartered in Salem since 1966.  Franz remains committed to the community she loves and can be reached at