Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Bill Armstrong already has a parking spot

Coun. Bill Armstrong, so far uncontested for re-election in ward two, is nevertheless still test-driving populist schemes after his earlier success as the sponsor of this summer's pesticide bylaw. From the London Free Press:

Downtown parking rates should be regulated to prevent operators from driving up rates, says a London councillor. Coun. Bill Armstrong said he'll raise the issue at an environment and transportation meeting today.

"I'm concerned that there seems to be a lack of competition for private lots and I think we need to look at that right now," Armstrong said. "I think we should look at whether there needs to be regulations around who has the lots, where they are and what they charge."
Armstrong might to equal avail patronize the complaints about the pricing of anything else in the city, like gasoline, beer, automobile repairs, etc. What makes parking rents different from these other commodities? Answer: council would not have to make an entry into the parking market because it is already highly regulated by the city. If zoning laws and politically-motivated obstructions of development application permits did not already discourage entry by competitors into the downtown parking lot market, the city is itself a major competitor, although the only one possessing the legal means to protect its revenues. Creating competition by regulation is the vainest conceit of politicians. Regulation has reduced competition to the few players who possess the wherewithal and political capacity to stay upright in the shoals of council's control of the market — increasing regulation by price-fixing is the surest way to entrench the lack of competition and supply. If Armstrong were genuinely concerned about the lack of competition in the parking market instead of standing on a populist stump, he'd be urging council to back out of it.

Of course, if Armstrong were genuinely concerned about the prices of goods and services to Londoners, he'd start with the one over which he and council have the most immediate influence and that wouldn't require one new bit of regulation — municipal taxes.