— Nick DeLuca (@NickDeLuca1) July 30, 2014
In an 11th hour filing on Wednesday, Boston City Councilor Frank Baker submitted an ordinance that has the potential to render Haystack, the contentious parking app, inoperable in Boston. Just prior to Haystack’s official launch here in The Hub, Mayor Marty Walsh similarly took an entrenched stance against Haystack, arguing that it allows for people to profiteer off public property.
While the ordinance doesn’t cite Haystack or its practices specifically, it states that “no person or entity other than the City of Boston and any of its departments or designees shall have the authority to sell, lease, reserve, or facilitate the reserving of any street, way, highway, road or parkway, or portion thereof under the City of Boston’s control.”
Haystack works by allowing one user, leaving a parking spot, to sell that fact for a market rate to someone scouring the streets and circling the block looking for a parking spot of their own. Mayor Walsh’s administration, and Councilor Baker, say this act is essentially one person selling public property to another.
Haystack CEO Eric Meyer, however, says the app allows people to sell information. This is where the ordinance’s language pertaining to facilitating portions of the road comes in. While Meyer and his constituents may not be selling public property directly, they’re certainly assisting in the reservation of it.
“I thought it was a horrible,” Councilor Sal La Mattina said in speaking to the chamber. “This is absolutely ridiculous… if we could pass [the ordinance] today, we should do this today.”
The ordinance was designated by City Council President Bill Linehan to the Committee on Neighborhood Services and Veteran Affairs.
Mayor Walsh promised that if Haystack persisted to operate in the City, the Boston Transportation Department would take “appropriate measures to prohibit such an app,” he said in a statement earlier this month. Haystack has continued to do business, or at least try to, despite the face that it’s become a polarizing new app in a city known for welcoming innovation.
Perhaps what’s most interesting about the situation is how Mayor Walsh is handling it. He could’ve taken a page out of predecessor Mayor Tom Menino’s playbook and slammed an iron fist atop any applicable licenses and permits needed for a company like Haystack to operate (remember Chick-Fil-A and Walmart?).
Instead, it seems, our new mayor is going about this situation in a way that rallies support from the City Council. And surely it helps that, like Mayor Walsh, Councilor Baker is a lifelong Dorchester resident.
Interestingly, former-City Councilors Mike Ross and Tom Keane have both come out in favor of Haystack, citing Boston’s affinity for innovation and hellish parking scene as the primary reasons why. Even Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake attended Haystack’s official launch when the app debuted in Maryland’s largest city.
Though nobody’s arguing against the fact that there’s plenty of room for advantageous change when it comes to parking, it should be done in a way that benefits everyone equally, including the City of Boston, or nobody at all.
Should the ordinance ultimately pass, a penalty of $250 will be levied for each violation thereof.