The city of Galveston is right on both counts of a plan to revamp how it deals with parking along Seawall Boulevard during annual Mardi Gras parades.
The first part shouldn’t even be controversial; the second might be, but the city council should approve it anyway.
Part one is that after years of deciding each year by council vote whether to suspend the usual rules banning overnight parking along the seawall, administrators propose an ordinance that would permanently allow overnight seawall parking during the first weekend of Mardi Gras.
The city bans parking on the seawall overnight, leveling a $50 a night fine against violators, but in the past, it’s been accommodating to the tradition of festival attendees staking a claim on Seawall Boulevard in advance of the first weekend’s parades.
“A lot of people like to do it, and we try to accommodate that, but at the same time, it needs to be something we can manage,” Mayor Jim Yarbrough said.
It’s a tradition and not one that any council member is apt to vote against, or have good reason for doing so, so there’s no reason to make it an annual decision. The only question about that change is why nobody thought of it before.
The second proposed change is more likely to meet objection. The city wants to discourage weekday early birds by raising the overnight parking fine to $250 from $50 in the Monday through Thursday leading up to the first festival weekend.
In past years, people have paid the $50 a night fine to ensure they get their chosen parade spots and the city hopes the higher fine will discourage the practice.
The only question for the council is whether that practice of getting there early really is a problem and most seem to agree that it is.
The vehicles are an impediment to cleaning and maintaining the seawall, Galveston Park Board of Trustees spokeswoman Jaree Fortin said.
The park board maintains the seawall and its amenities.
“Overnight parking on the seawall does prevent our trash truck crews from being able to access the receptacles,” Fortin said. “We are also unable to use the parking lane to safely empty the receptacles.”
The drafted version of the rule would allow parking and camping between midnight and 5 a.m. on Seawall Boulevard between Sixth and 59th streets, between 63rd and 89th streets and from the 9300 block to the end of the seawall, according to city council documents.
The Galveston City Council is scheduled to discuss the proposed ordinance during its special workshop Wednesday, but won’t vote on the subject until its Jan. 24 meeting, Yarbrough said.
The bottom line is that if people are willing to pay a fine to circumvent a rule, then the fine is too low and the city is right to increase the cost until it’s painful enough to be effective.
• Michael A. Smith