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Atlanta vs. ParkAtlanta: A Loveless Marriage | News

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Atlanta vs. ParkAtlanta: A Loveless Marriage

ATLANTA -- "I just feel like this has been cursed from the beginning," said Atlanta councilman Michael Julian Bond. 

"It's like a baby that's been born under a ladder by a broken mirror with a cat as a midwife under a full moon. It's just that at every level things have gone wrong over and over again."

Bond is talking about ParkAtlanta and its contentious relationship with the city it works for. In many ways, it has been an unhappy marriage. And a divorce would cost millions.

"You don't like ParkAtlanta, but are you willing to pay someone don't like eight million dollars to go away?" Bond asked. "When I've talked to people, they're like 'no'."

Bond has been privy to the behind-the-scenes tension between ParkAtlanta and city hall. From the moratorium that cut back enforcement hours to the arbitration defeat that could've cost the city millions and ultimately led to higher parking fines.

"The city's got to own this," he said outside city hall Friday. "Because at the end of the day, ParkAtlanta is a contractor to the City of Atlanta; enforcing rules that the City of Atlanta created within the contract."

Sometimes rules the city didn't even have, like 24/7 parking enforcement which Bond says wasn't even on the books in Atlanta.

He says the city itself bears much of the blame for the parking problems, but was pleased to see Public Works Commissioner Richard Mendoza promise to make changes after he received our petition for a parking Bill of Rights.

"To hear that Mendoza is going to step up the operation and get out here and try to fix the problems that you all have so very articulately addressed with your series is encouraging," Bond added. "And that's good because the city's got to take ownership."

When 11Alive presented him with his own copy of our petition, Bond was not surprised by the hundreds of signatures. He said angry ParkAtlanta complaints to the council are not new and often involve issues not addressed by the contract.

For example, the impact of disputed fines on credit reports; an appeals process that can be slower than the time it takes to go to court; and meters where credit cards don't work because of poor cell reception where the machines are located.

"When I began the process a couple of years ago as parking subcommittee chair I really didn't think we would still be at this level at this point," Bond said, recalling his efforts to quell the anger of residents toward ParkAtlanta for what many see as their aggressive parking enforcement.

"But what is the alternative? The alternative is that we would have to write a super big check in a tough economy."