The people at Downtown Provo Inc. have a difficult job and clearly they’re trying to appease all parties involved here. And I think they’re generally doing a great job. (In the interest of full disclosure, I also did a little bit of work for them recently.)
I also love the businesses in downtown. I visit them often and hate to see them struggling. And if the community came together to support the rogue signs they’d be a fine and adequate solution.
But unfortunately, however, the community, the businesses and others all contest the ownership and use of this space. All of these groups have legitimate claims and grievances, so I think the problem is worth looking at.
As the tweet states, the area businesses are “hurting” as a result of construction. That’s a major problem that absolutely needs fixing.
But why does that mean that the city government should subsidize business loses via free parking? If construction is hurting businesses, the people behind that construction — in this case the LDS Church and Nu Skin — should solve the problems they’re creating. Given the massive costs of these projects, it’s conceivable that their backers could just hand over a few thousand dollars to nearby businesses.
I know that wouldn’t actually happen, but the point is that fabulously wealthy private interests should solve the problems they create.
And those problems are real, as pointed out by Station 22:
Perhaps the problem here is that local shops lack an advocate willing to confront the problem or the private interests. Nu Skin and the LDS Church seem to get whatever they want downtown, which may be an underlying issue here. They also may not be fulfilling their obligations, which were to minimize their impact:
Again, this goes to show that the people behind the construction need to take responsiblity. If they won’t, the city or another organization should hold them accountable.
But regardless, this still illustrates how everyone — businesses, drivers, construction workers, wealthy corporations, etc. — think of the street and street parking as “belonging” to them. Clearly, that’s a problem when interests conflict.
The solution, I think, is to more clearly delineate who gets to use a street — so better signage, more enforcement, etc. — and to create streets with less contested space. More pedestrian space would do this, for example, but in any case the point is that government-owned free parking is always likely to spark a battle.