Honolulu Lite

Charles Memminger

The Parking Lot
Theory of Financing

Honolulu City Council budget chairwoman Ann Kobayashi wants to pay for police raises with the sale of a city parking lot, ushering a new era of "garage sale" financing.

The sale of parking lots to pay for government services is recognized by some of the country's top economic policy think tanks as an underutilized theory of financing often referred to as "Parking Lot Supply Side Economics" or the "Trickle Down Parking Lot Theory of Capitalization."

Detractors dismiss it as Voodoo Parking Lot Economics, mainly because they aren't sophisticated enough to understand such advanced economic paradigms. In fact, they are such financial rubes that they think economic paradigms equal 20 cents.

History tells us that entire civilizations have been financed by the sale of parking lots. The Roman Empire, for example, was known for building thousands of miles of roads, and all those roads led to parking lots. And all those parking lots eventually were sold off to pay for naked statuary, togas for everybody and orgy catering fees. The grand parking lot at the Coliseum -- which easily held 45,000 chariots and twice that number of donkeys -- was sold to finance an arbitrated pay agreement between Caesar and the Public Centurions Guild. It came down to a choice of raising taxes, killing all commoners or selling the parking lot. Frankly, a lot of the senators really loved that parking lot, so the commoners got off lucky there.

THE HONOLULU City Council doesn't have the power to sacrifice commoners to improve the city's financial picture, at least not yet. So after approving the police union's new raise, it had to either raise taxes on vehicles or come up with some other way to pay for the wage increase.

No politician likes to raise taxes, except when nobody's looking. But everyone was looking to see what the Council would do on this bothersome police contract thingy, and so someone glanced around and said, "Hey! Look! A parking lot! Let's sell it!"

Brilliant. And the beauty of the Parking Lot Theory of Public Financing is that there are so many of them lying around. And when we are done selling all the parking lots, we can sell other things like bus stops and those big round Water Board pump stations.

Then we can put some of the parks on the auction block. Parks take up a lot of space and are hard to maintain, so it would be better to sell off a few of the more troublesome ones instead of raising taxes.

If that doesn't balance the budget, we can begin hawking zoo animals. The two elephants would bring in enough dough to head off the next bus strike.

And let's not forget the garbage collectors. They're going to want a raise one day. If we move now while the real estate market is hot, we could sell Honolulu Hale and make a killing. Of course, the City Council wouldn't have anywhere to meet. Considering its reluctance to actually do anything, that might work out just fine.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Charles Memminger, winner of National Society of Newspaper Columnists awards, appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. E-mail


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