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Spokane proposal to end free parking on some holidays draws objections

Sun., Dec. 8, 2013, midnight

The co-founders of Spokane’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration say a proposal from city leaders to start enforcing parking meters on the holiday indicates that officials consider the day second-rate.

The Spokane City Council on Monday will consider several changes to the downtown parking system. One of them would remove Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Veterans Day, Presidents Day and Columbus Day from the list of holidays during which the city allows free parking at its meters.

New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas would remain on the list of days with free parking.

City officials said the concept of the proposal is to only give free parking on holidays during which City Hall is closed.

However, even though the city picks up trash and performs some services on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, in recent years city officials have advertised that City Hall was closed.

Ivan Bush, one of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration co-founders, said he also strongly disagrees with the removal of Veterans Day from the list.

“To relegate these two days to a subordinate position, I just think it’s shameful,” said Bush, the retired equal opportunity officer for Spokane Public Schools.

City Council President Ben Stuckart said he hopes the ordinance is amended Monday. 

“I don’t know why you would mess with the parking holidays at all,” Stuckart said.

One reason not to end the parking holiday is that the city should encourage people to go downtown for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration, Stuckart said.

Spokane City Councilman Steve Salvatori said he believes all the city’s nonessential services should be closed on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but that since some city workers have negotiated to work that day the city should charge for parking.

In the meantime, he said, the city should continue to work with unions so that the city can operate like it does on the other major holidays.

“I think it’s nuts that on Martin Luther King Day the city is open,” he said.

The Rev. Happy Watkins of New Hope Baptist Church, the other co-founder of Spokane’s annual event celebrating King, said the parking proposal is a setback in the long effort to get city leaders to understand King’s importance.

Over the years the annual march has grown from dozens to thousands and gained support from elected leaders.

“That says something about Martin Luther King and his message,” Watkins said.

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