ST. PETERSBURG — You have dinner. Enjoy a show. It's fun. Then the night sours.
You've find a small green envelope with a $25 fine waiting for you back at your car. St. Petersburg's vigilant parking enforcement officers have struck again.
Parking enforcement is a heated topic downtown. When city officials recently tried to expand enforcement hours, complaints flooded into City Hall.
The debate is also evident in the varying policy promises staked out by the 10 candidates for mayor.
Former City Council member Kathleen Ford, 52, promised to eliminate all parking meters if she is elected mayor. Ford said her administration would revert to time-limited parking. For example, before Mayor Rick Baker added parking meters to Beach Drive in 2008, residents could park for free for a maximum of 90 minutes.
Former council member Bill Foster, 46, said he would require meters to be enforced from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. He would eliminate meter enforcement at night and during the weekends as long as downtown businesses did not object.
Business owner Scott Wagman, 56, said he would enforce uniform parking hours throughout downtown. Right now, some meters are enforced through 6 p.m., and others through 11 p.m. He would stop enforcement at 6 or 7 p.m. He would also offer change machines so that patrons can easily feed the meters.
Council member Jamie Bennett, 57, said he would extend the maximum parking time from two hours to three hours. "The parking meters are necessary to help keep people moving," he said.
Former council member Larry Williams, 64, said he would heavily consider eliminating the parking meters, but wouldn't promise to do so without more information. "I hate the parking meters, and everyone I know hates the parking meters," he said.
Student Richard Eldridge, 47, said he would eliminate the parking meters.
Political activist Ed Helm, 64, said parking should not be free because then there wouldn't be enough available spaces to go around.
Restaurateur John Warren, 60, said he would keep parking meters, but only under a transformed downtown parking plan that included additional parking lots. He would ask business owners if parking enforcement hours need to be tweaked.
Corporate executive Deveron Gibbons, 36, said he would consider standardizing enforcement hours. Right now, they vary from street to street.
He said he would not enforce meters after 6 p.m.
Advocate for the homeless Paul Congemi, 52, declined to comment.
Cristina Silva can be reached at (727) 893-8846 or firstname.lastname@example.org.