Downtown businesses frustrated with parking tickets

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Almost 18,000 parking tickets were left on windshields last year in downtown Kansas City. Some businesses are so frustrated with the tickets, they've offered to pay customers' fines.

You know the feeling -- that sinking in your stomach when a parking enforcement officer slides a ticket under your windshield. Annette Jones, owner of Zafar Salon, Spa and Boutique on Main Street knows the feeling too well. To keep her customers coming back, she makes a generous offer to pay their parking citations.

"It's frustrating that they get so many tickets, but my company and I end up paying those tickets off because we want our customers to come back," Jones explained.

Jones estimated she paid close to $300 last month alone in customers' parking fines.

The idea of more enforcement, she said, could mean losing the business she's fought to keep.

"Those customers are not going to come back after they get a ticket because that's a deterrent," she said with a sigh. "They drive down Main Street and cannot find a spot. Unless they have cash, they can't park in the garages, either."

Kansas City Councilman Russ Johnson was supposed to announce a proposal to hire an outside company to enforce parking. However, he backed out of Thursday's police board meeting.

Johnson said he wants to ticket people who park their cars along the curb for hours, taking up spots alongside the curb, which should be used by customers.

Tiffany Nguyen, manager at Polished Nail Salon, said drivers park in front of her business for the entire day, although the spots are supposed to be reserved for only two hours.  

"We see them all the time, but it's not something where we are going to run out and tell them 'you can't park there anymore,'" she said.

Instead, she and her coworkers loan their customers $2 to park in a nearby parking garage.

"We're willing to do that for our customers, but if we didn't have to, that would be even better," she said.

Johnson said he plans to introduce a proposal to enhance enforcement in front of his fellow city council members, but not until he gets more feedback from downtown businesses.

Currently the city only has two employees in the Public Works Department writing citations.

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