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Another Half-Baked Plan

Terrorists not likely to be deterred by parking meter covers

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The City of Charlotte has come up with an anti-terrorism parking plan that should be listed in future dictionaries as the definition of "half-baked." At first, the city's plan to prevent terrorists from bombing or attacking local buildings by towing their vehicles or writing them parking tickets struck us as a scheme to rake in more money from parking fines -- as we've written before, what kind of terrorist is going to be stopped by a no-parking sign? Upon closer examination of how the plans are being carried out by the city and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, we are left even more baffled as to what the city hopes to accomplish.Last week, the city announced that the war in Iraq had prompted it, and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, to tighten uptown parking restrictions as part of an overall heightened security status. As part of this plan, Captain Terry Sult explained to CL Friday, the police department would be placing warning signs in normally restricted parking areas uptown advising those who parked there that they would be towed. Normally, he said, they'd just get a ticket.

In practice though, the plan has several problems:

All of the parking meters along East 2nd Street directly in front of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Education Center have red no-parking meter covers in front of them, a plan clearly intended to foil only terrorists who are too stupid to realize that they could pull up much closer to the Center by simply parking in the dozen or so "visitors parking" spaces next to the building. We couldn't find any visible restrictions on visitor parking in that lot when we visited Monday morning. All the visitors' parking spaces were filled at the time.

At the Charlotte Plaza building at 201 College Street, there are red no-parking meter-covers over four of the 11 parking meters directly in front of the building accompanied by a "No Parking Anytime" warning sign from the CMPD. Again, what this was intended to accomplish is unclear as the other seven parking meters directly in front of the building remain open for service to parkers between 9am and 4pm. The only terrorist who would be foiled by this set-up would be one who only wanted to blow in the front doors with maybe a single stick of dynamite.

At the Wachovia Building at 400 South Tryon, which is home to the FBI's Charlotte Division Field Office, the city has placed the red "no-parking" meter covers only on the parking meters directly in front of the building. Drivers can still pay to park at the meters that aren't directly in front of the building. The first of these spaces where paid parking is still permitted is located about three feet further away from the building than the last space with the "no parking" meter cover. If the devastation wreaked upon the Alfred R. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City is any indication, three feet won't make a whole lot of difference.

At the Two Wachovia Center building at 301 S. Tryon Street, red "no-parking" meter covers are accompanied by signs that read "no parking anytime by order of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police." Why the effort was made to place the signage in front of the building is baffling when you consider that directly across the street, at One Wachovia Center, parking is still permitted during the day.

No parking is permitted in front of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police headquarters building on East Trade Street, the location of the special command post local officials opened last week to combat potential terrorist threats. However, plenty of meter parking is available in the visitor's lot directly behind the building.

It is unclear why city and police officials banned parking in front of the ILJ Wachovia corporate office building at 201 N. Tryon Street, but continued to allow parking during the day down the street at the First Citizens building and across the street from the Bank of America building, a few blocks away.

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