Parking initiative placed on MSSA General Election Ballot

By: Megan Kadlec

A voting referendum for parking permit and parking ticket fee increases has been set to appear at the MSSA general election this month.

The “Green Transportation Fee” would increase student fees by 75 cents per credit hour and would improve Mankato’s bus system as well as MSU’s bike storage. The Minnesota State Student Association favored the referendum in their Wednesday meeting.

MSSA President Matt Lexcen and Vice President Moriah Miles were noted as being in favor of the initiative, stating that bus ridership should increase, utilizing the proposed bus system improvements available through the passage of the Green Transportation Fee.

Lexcen also added that because students were considering parking permit changes and bus system improvements, the Student Association and MSSA would not support the elimination of the 430-stall Free Lot in the near future.

In order for a referendum to be passed and be binding on MSSA officials, at least 50 percent of votes cast in the April 10 election must be in favor of the bill.

“The vote shall not be valid unless the number of ballots cast is at least 50 percent of the number cast in the last MSSA annual election,” said David Cowan in an email regarding the referendum.

Cowan is the Facilities Services Director at MSU.

Also up for grabs at the April 10 election are 28 out of 30 Senate seats and the titles of MSSA President and Vice President.

In order for the referendum to be placed on the ballot, MSSA will be required to develop language that can be put on the ballot, hold at least one public hearing regarding the initiative and “shall thereafter submit the initiative to a vote at the next regular or special MSSA election,” according to MSSA’s constitution, which can be found on their website.

“Putting any initiative on a ballot requires advocates to do their best to publicize the proposal’s merits and generate sufficient support at the polls,” according to Cowan’s email.

If passed, the Green Transportation Fee’s free bus ridership, bike rack capacity improvement and expanded bus service would drastically change the manner in which students, faculty and staff travel to campus. These services would be expected to reduce vehicle parking demand, allowing the University to effectively deal with what could be considered a parking stall pitfall.

If the initiative is passed, the proposed fee increases in bus passes would become void as students would no longer be required to pay for Mankato bus services around campus.

Volunteers serving on the Parking Advisory Committee (PAC) heard 33 suggestions about the state of MSU’s transportation system and parking lots at the March 14th Annual Hearing on Parking and Transportation Policies, Budget and Capital Improvements.

In a “post-hearing” recommendation, the PAC endorsed a $1,460,020 overall income plan for the 2013 fiscal year which would include permits, fine collections and visitor pay lot receipts. The income plan was accompanied by a $1,455,ooo spending plan as well as a Five Year Capital Improvement Program that includes $4.6 million in parking lot repairs during the next five years.

This program is being forwarded to the administration for final approval and the PAC understands that the plan would be examined and evaluated each year in order to best finance as many parking lot repairs as made possible by the University’s parking income.

Parking permit rate increases were proposed in the face of parking lot repairs needed for both the 600-stall Performing Arts Lot 16 and Gage’s 500-stall Lot 1.

“Criticism was received that the PAC failed to build in an incremental rate model spread over the past four years which would have made the recommended changes less of a problem,” stated Cowan’s email. “PAC members explained that no rates were recommended over the last four years as salary freezes, tuition hikes, and the threat of layoffs made rate hike proposals ‘non-starters.’”

For those students with strong opinions on the proposal, a public hearing will be held within the next two weeks before the initiative will be put up to a vote April 10.

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