Above is a photo of corruption in Greensboro. Maybe in Greensboro we should be proud that this is the level of corruption that we have in municipal government, but it is still corruption, even if it is small.

Why is a parking regulatory sign corruption? Because these are the only four parking spaces on Greene Street downtown that don’t have parking meters.

Why don’t these four spaces have parking meters? Did the City Council decide to give the law professors at Elon Law School free parking as a special incentive? No. The City Council didn’t decide anything. In fact it is doubtful that the City Council knows about these parking spaces.

The free spaces are in front of the Municipal Federal Credit Union and city employees decided to give themselves free parking. This is corruption – people in power providing special privileges for themselves. The city employees are stealing downtown parking spaces from the public and parking spaces downtown are valuable.

This is a special privilege that the city employees have not granted to Elon Law School, Lincoln Financial, the Carolina Theatre, Outer Limits Offender Program, Quiznos Subs, BB&T, Stumble Stilskins or any of the other businesses along Greene Street that would all benefit from free parking in front of their places of business.

It is no doubt minor corruption because what the city is losing are quarters from parking meters. But the perk is not the money as much as the convenience of not having to find quarters. And more importantly, it greatly reduces the chance of getting a parking ticket. I have walked past these parking spaces countless times and I have never once seen the tires marked or the parking enforcement officers, who are quick to give tickets to cars parked at meters the second the meter expires, marking the tires or taking photos. With no meter, the only way a car could legitimately get a ticket is if the tires are marked or a photo is taken. Since that doesn’t seem to be happening on any regular basis, it’s a safe assumption that these are not only free parking spaces, they are free for far longer than the 15 minutes on the sign.

If free parking is good for business as city employees believe, or they wouldn’t give themselves free parking, why aren’t other businesses downtown afforded the same benefit?

Why, for instance, do businesses on Elm Street get free parking at their front door but the businesses on Greene, Market, Friendly, Washington, Davie and all the other downtown streets have metered parking?

The city should treat all downtown businesses fairly, but it gives special privileges to its own employees and to businesses on Elm Street. What is the philosophy behind special treatment for some?

A group of people concerned about the future of downtown Greensboro have asked for free on-street parking in the downtown. The city cannot possibly collect much in quarters from downtown parking meters, and when you subtract out the cost of having an employee endlessly traveling around the downtown emptying the meters, plus the cost of the meters themselves, it wouldn’t cost the city much.

Getting the exact figure on how much is collected from downtown meters is difficult, since the city insists on including things like parking tickets in the figure, and that is a different issue. The city could still give out tickets to cars that parked over the time limit, but it wouldn’t have the meters to depend on, so it would be more difficult for the city employees to give tickets. More difficult, but it could still be done.

The elimination of metered spaces would also help bring Greensboro kicking and screaming into the 21st century. People don’t carry cash, and in particular change, like they did even 10 years ago. It makes doing business downtown more inconvenient to have to find change to park on the street, which is probably one reason the city employees decided to give themselves free parking in front of the municipal credit union. Why should people who come downtown to spend money be required to carry change in order to do so?

The city establishment types constantly talk about attracting more young people to the downtown, but young people are even less likely to carry cash than older folks. They appear to pay for everything with their phones.

The fact that the city employees have placed the only free parking places on Greene Street in front of the municipal credit union proves that it is a matter of convenience. Why doesn’t the City Council follow the lead of their employees and make it more convenient for everyone downtown, not just city employees?

Councilmember Justin Outling said that not providing free parking was a matter of fairness. He said that parking was a commodity and it wasn’t fair to give away a publicly owned commodity for free. But Outling, when he goes home, can park by his house without plugging a meter. If it is truly a matter of fairness then every legal parking space in Greensboro, including those in residential neighborhoods, should have parking meters. More and more people are living downtown and they can’t park in front of their residences for free during the day unless they live on Elm Street, but people all over the rest of the city get to park in front of their homes for free.

How is that fair?