Mayor says she won't enforce ban on parking space savers

When it snows in Baltimore, it isn't long before traffic cones, plastic chairs, lawn chairs, even a bar stool or two appear, as residents lay claim to curbside parking spaces they've labored to clear. Among the space holders spotted this week: a pair of walkers on Harford Road north of 25th Street, beach chairs in Rodgers Forge and a dining room chair in Hampden.

The long-standing local practice is guaranteed to provoke snide comments and even threats. Some think it only fair, others think it the height of selfishness. It happens to be illegal, but don't waste your breath with that argument, at least in Charm City.

Though sworn to uphold city laws, the new mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, has sided with the traditionalists.

In a phone interview on WYPR's Mid-Day with Dan Rodricks on Monday, Rawlings-Blake pledged not to enforce the ban.

"Some things are tradition in Baltimore, and blocking your parking space is certainly one of those traditions," she said. "I said to someone the other day, it's like telling people they can't say ‘Hon.'"

She's not the first mayor to look the other way after a snow storm. Her predecessor, Sheila Dixon, declared after the late December storm that the city would not enforce the ban, though she urged residents to clear as much of the street as possible so there'd be no need to hoard parking spaces.

Sanctioned or not, it's still a practice that'll get a heated discussion going on.

A strong public property faction has been given a voice in a Facebook group titled, "Just 'cuz you left a plastic chair where your snow-covered car used to be.." Started by Brian Connelly of Baltimore, it has a photograph showing the front end of a sport utility vehicle bearing down on a plastic lawn chair occupying an empty parking spot on a snowy street.

Group member Chris Farrell commented on the page, "These are public streets we're talking about right??? So if I clear off a picnic table at a public park, that's mine? For how long? I can just kick people off any time I come back?"

Of course, with another big storm bearing down on Maryland, those arguments will be in abeyance as the just-cleared parking spaces get buried under more snow. But within a day or two, as spots get cleared again, look for the chairs and the attitudes to reappear.

After all, it's a tradition, Hon!

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