Friday, August 29, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

The Pulse: Parking-space 'Savesies' - a nonpartisan issue at last

Parking spots on Ellsworth Street between 13th and Broad are  "reserved" with a pylon and a chair on Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2014. (Eric Mencher/Staff)
Parking spots on Ellsworth Street between 13th and Broad are "reserved" with a pylon and a chair on Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2014. (Eric Mencher/Staff)

In thinking about one of the great controversies of winter 2014, I may have found the one dispute not subject to a predictable partisan divide. On everything from climate change to contraception, we've grown accustomed to red state/blue state disagreement, but whether that extends to "Savesies" is less clear.

Helen Ubinas wrote recently for the Daily News about disputes over the Philadelphia tradition of people saving parking spaces they have shoveled. The practice of placing a chair, milk crate, or cone in a space so that others can't park on a municipal-owned street is illegal, but that doesn't seem to stop the tradition. As I learned from discussing the subject on radio, everyone seems to have an opinion about whether he/she who shovels is entitled to the spot until the snow melts.

So would a conservative respect the hard work undertaken by the shoveler and allow him to claim the spot? Or might someone right-of-center be more interested in upholding public and private property rights, thereby denying the shoveler a claim to government land? And is the liberal position one that recognizes we're not all capable of shoveling and therefore the welfare of society demands that we all pitch in for the benefit of those who can't? Or maybe a progressive would view the shoveling as an effort to privatize what has traditionally been the function of a municipal workforce?

To answer these questions, I'm looking to our political leaders. Here's what I'm imagining:

President Obama has staked out a nuanced position that envisions "a neighborhood where we all pull together" - but only because the government will be requiring everybody to shovel at least one parking space. "But if you like your spot, you can keep your spot," he promises.

Vice President Biden's response? "This is a big deal!"

And what about the other 2016 wannabes?

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) is clearly against Savesies, passionately arguing for public appropriation of privately shoveled spots, noting that "you wouldn't even have a spot to shovel but for the government workers who constructed the road."

Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) emphasizes the individual's God-given right to suffer an unnecessary heart attack while proudly doing a physically exhausting job: "Every American has the right to lead an unnecessarily difficult existence with as little governmental assistance as possible."

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee dismisses the notion that "helpless women will be looking to Uncle Sugar to plow them an opening," apparently oblivious to the unintended sexual content of his comments.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) has trouble staying focused on the issue after the mention of the weather. "I'm not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says. I can tell you what the Bible says . . ."

Meanwhile, Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) opposes any law that would involve the government in any aspect of the controversy. "Nobody should be forced to shovel a spot, and government should not be involved in protecting spots," he argues, adding that his program is the only way to "guarantee that nobody gets a shoveled spot."

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asserts that the issue is irrelevant. "It snowed! We know that! What difference does it make?"

Sen. Cory Booker (D., N.J.) sees an opportunity to personally shovel an entire block of cars, while rescuing a few lost puppies, in order to somehow prove that "I'm not gay. Not that there's anything wrong with it."

Across the state, Gov. Christie holds a press conference: "I am who I am, but I am not a bully - I would never take someone else's parking space."

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush doesn't care who shovels, as long as it isn't another member of his family. "To quote my mother, 'We've had enough Bushes. Can't someone else dig you out?' "

Finally, Mitt Romney says he's not running. He was for Savesies while governor of Massachusetts, but against them when he ran for president. Today, he simply asks: "Park in the street? Why wouldn't you just use your underground garage?"

 


Michael Smerconish can be heard from 9 a.m. to noon on Sirius XM's POTUS Channel 124.

Michael Smerconish Inquirer Columnist
Also on Philly.com
Stay Connected