Ultimately the cause of parking abuse here in Amherst is a topic covered in UMass course Econ 103 Introduction to Macro Economics.
The budget gap that the Amherst Select Board was trying to patch with parking fines is a result of the continuing shift in the relative costs of Goods versus Services here in the United States.
As an example, at the turn of the last century a common household broom cost as much as a working person’s full week salary, and would require about a day of labor to produce. With the rise of the Industrial Revolution, the time needed to manufacture products dropped significantly. With the advent of automated broom making machinery, a single person could produce hundreds of brooms in a day, reducing the cost of brooms, but increasing the relative cost of labor. One day of a persons work has increased in value from one broom, to a hundred brooms, and now today, probably thousands of brooms. As this process has continued, and manufacturing has become increasingly cheeper, it inevitably means that the cost of labor, and so the cost of any service related industry, becomes more expensive. The cost of the Town of Amherst public schools is now half of the annual budget and growing in expense. It is inevitable that the Town of Amherst will need to reduce increasingly more town services over time.
The solution for this is larger than we can solve in Amherst, but we can recognize how we are contributing to the problem. Every time we purchase a low cost product, manufactured over seas, we are depriving a local manufacturing worker of a living wage. Nationally, we must choose to exercise our right to pay more for U.S. manufactured products, and so reduce the relative costs of U.S. labor.
In time, all U.S. and international labor rates will equalize as foreign workers demand higher wages and a higher standard of living. It is also true that we in the U.S. will inevitably have a reduced standard of living as we will no longer be able to support our artificially inflated standard based on low cost of overseas labor. This process being inevitable, we should expect it and plan for it.
It is both short sited and abusive to misuse motor vehicle infractions to maintain an artificially high level of town services. What the Town of Amherst is doing is using laws intended for parking management as a form of taxation of this essential resource of our downtown businesses. This is bad judgment. I know that running a small business in Amherst is hard enough. If we recognize that we support in-town business by reducing parking fines over the Christmas shopping season, why wouldn’t we want to support businesses the rest of the year?
There are increasingly more empty storefronts in town and several long-term local businesses in town have closed and been replaced by big-chain franchises. Our small, in-town food market has been replaced by a CVS. Our small in-town pharmacy has been replaced with a Subway restaurant. Our small in-town diner has been replaced by a Bruger’s Beagle’s. I make a point of not supporting these businesses, as these big companies take money out of the local economy and do not form part of the town I want to live in.
We will not solve long term budget deficits by abusing regulatory laws. APT.