Anyone who has ever incurred a Missoula parking ticket remembers that bittersweet instant of pulling the yellow envelope off the windshield, opening it up in mild disgust only to find that the fine was…$2. When your parking ticket costs less than the bagel you were just running in to get, well, that’s just awesome. It’s one of those little things that makes us love this city.

Consider these points of comparison: presidential-hopeful Barack Obama recently shelled out $375 for the 15 parking tickets he racked up in law school—17 years ago. That’s $25 a pop. In Boulder, Colo., you get nailed for $15 for going over on a meter. In Kalispell it’s $10.

So, we weren’t exactly shocked when Missoula Parking Commission Director Anne Guest proposed a plan late last month to bump $2 meter violations to $5 for first-time offenses, $5 overtime fines to $10, and $15 improper parking fines to $20. Those fines, Guest pointed out, hadn’t been updated in more than 36 years.

But the plan was promptly met with angry backlash from business owners who maintain downtown parking is already a big enough problem for customers, and any increase in fines would deter shoppers from visiting downtown altogether.

The Missoula Downtown Association (MDA) was leaning toward endorsing Guest’s proposal, but after hearing some of its member backlash, the board backed down earlier this week from its intention to submit a “letter of support” for the parking fine plan. At its April 3 monthly meeting, the MDA board agreed to table the controversial letter in favor of forming a task force—complete with a mediator—to try to reconcile some of the competing ideas among association members.

According to Guest, an ex officio MDA board member, the mediator will represent the various conflicting parties and “try to unite everybody” in forming a new proposal MDA, as a whole, can live with.

Good luck with that.

We batted this issue around the newsroom this week—those of us with outstanding parking tickets abstained from the conversation—trying to propose our own solution. Higher fines? More enforcement? A 16-story parking structure overlooking Caras Park? But the fact is, we actually don’t care so much. We’re just looking forward to Bike, Walk, Bus Week starting April 22. After all, we’ve never once found a parking ticket on our handlebars.
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