Overall, Arlington's parking woes come down to these numbers -- owners of more than 35,456 vehicles have to find spots at about 18,200 residences.
The 1.9 vehicles per household inevitably lead to conflicts between residents and officials trying to juggle the imbalance. Consider one case -- Swan Place.
The story of this short block of modest homes -- some with driveways, some without -- near Arlington Center goes back 18 years. Like a used Chevy whose driver winds about seeking a parking space, the tale of Swan Place twists and turns toward the very present.
As selectmen have moved toward shaping rules for Swan Place, which they say are fairer to all and are to take effect Feb. 4, residents have seen:
* A trial period for $10 resident-only parking was supposed to last 180 days in 1995 but was forgotten about and went on until last summer;
* Signs allowing permit parking were removed in August before the selectmen approved that action; and
* Persistent inquiry by resident Richard Langone in December that led Kevin Greeley, the selectmen's chairman, to ask that the ACMi cable-TV cameras be shut off as he took a 15-minute break.
Since August, Langone has filed numerous public-records requests in his effort, he says, "for the truth the real reason they came and ticketed our street."
Can you fight Town Hall? Langone tries
That reason, he claims, amounts to a personal vendetta against Swan Place by Greeley and Selectman Diane Mahon, who are in charge of the parking subcommittee, which has made recommendations about the matter. In separate interviews, both deny that claim.
What appears more likely is that a request by a Swan Place resident last summer about why cars were being ticketed on the street triggered events that brought the issue back to official consciousness.
Let's look at some of the history of this issue. Go back to April 11, 1995, the day after selectmen voted to approve a $10 fee for resident-only parking for Swan Place under a six-month trial. A memo reflecting the issue went from John Dunlap, then board administrator, to Eugene V. Del Gaizo, then director of police services.
After that, a lengthy silence on the matter stretched out for years, as residents were no doubt happy to get the parking "break."
Stephen Gilligan, the town's treasurer and also the parking clerk, was a selectman in 1995 but says he has no recollection of the issue.
Fast-forward to last year. On May 22 resident Jim Ballin sent a letter the selectmen inquiring about increased ticketing on the street and to request a visitor pass.
On Aug. 2, according to a chronology of events Langone has kept, signs of Swan Place were changed from resident-only parking to one-hour parking.
"I directly went to the Town Hall on the 3rd," Langone wrote in an account he provided to YourArlington, "and I was told it was a result of a committee’s decision and that the signs would stay up even though we had the proper permits that were good through the rest of the 2012-year period."
About this time, Langone wrote that he called Mahon and left a first message telling her about my background as a mailman for 27 years and that it would benefit us if we talked about the street issue. On the 8th, I then left a 2nd message ..., to which she never called me back."
Mahon said she had received no phone messages that month from Langone.
Discussion with police
On Aug. 10, Langone said visited Arlington police and told the officer at the desk that "our street signs had been stolen, to which he smiled and ... read a memo to me stating that the residents of Swan Place had asked that their signs to be changed in direct result of the before-mentioned 1995 agreement.
The officer then said police don’t ticket a street when residents are disputing sign change there, according to Langone's account.
At Town Hall that day, Langone said made the first of a number of public-records requests for information pertaining to the Swan place issue. Besides the 1995 memo, he received a letter written by neighbor Jim Ballin asking initially for all tickets he had received and a visitor pass.
On Aug. 11, Langone said that as he was walking to his job as a mail carrier, he asked a parking-control officer why he was ticketing Swan Place. The officer said his boss ordered him to, Langone said. Asked the reason for the ticketing, Langone said he was told it stemmed from a complaint, which was lodged before the ticketing began.
"The selectmen's office says that because of Jim's complaint, that’s what brought us to their attention (not true)" Langone wrote, "so they decide without talking to us to change our signs."
In an interview Jan. 13, Greeley said that signs were changed following a July parking subcommittee meeting without discussing it with neighbors and before the full board voted on the issue. Greeley agreed that this was a misstep in the process. He also said he did not know who ordered signs be changed.
YourArlington requested permission to speak with Officer Corey Rateau, who would likely know much of what had occurred at street level in this matter. The request was denied. Capt. Richard Flynn wrote Jan. 15: "This is a policy issue within the authority of the BOS [Board of Selectmen]. Aside from the input we provided to the BOS as part of their decision-making process, we have no further comment.
At the Aug. 27 selectmen's meeting, a number of Swan Place residents spoke. Langone admits he "was loud at the end mostly to raise attention to our street with the public."
He said he received no response from selectmen other than Mahon saying there would be a $200 night fee, he filed an Open Meeting Law complaint. As of Jan. 19, he said he had no response from the state.
"She doesn’t even listen to a word anyone says," he said. "Now I know that Diane Mahon and Kevin Greeley [are] behind the whole thing."
Proof of vendetta?
Asked for specific proof that the two selectmen are targeting his street, Langone cited unspecified "police emails," suggesting a reporter might them via a public-records request; tickets he has received and the Aug. 10, 2012, memo at the police station that says the Swan Place residents requested the signs be changed. He called that "a complete lie; I wonder who it was that told the police that?"
It's a good question, but stating it, as well as the two preceding points, do not clearly help Langone's case.
Resident-only parking signs were put back Aug. 28.
Following the Nov. 8 parking subcommittee meeting, during which Langone said, "Nothing had changed," selectmen met Dec. 3. Toward the end of a very lengthy meeting, Swan Place residents again had the floor.
As the resident made his point, holding up tickets he said he had received, the exchange with Greeley became increasing loud.
Mahon said she told Greeley quietly that it was time to end the discussion after she said Greeley had warned Langone eight times.
At length, Greeley asked for the ACMi camera be turn off while he took a break. During the break, he said he asked Officer Rateau to assist if need be. After the meeting resumed, no such help was needed.
Asked what action he would like the state to take in response to his Open Meeting Law complaints, Langone wrote:
"We asked for the truth to be told (about the targeted ticketing and the real reason for sign change). We doubt that would ever happen. We also asked that they leave our street as it is. Both things we probably wouldn't get. But the main reason for the complaint is to document the targeted ticketing."
What should be done?
Apart from complaints, Langone also offered his view of solutions that selectmen might pursue:
"With over 50 years of overnight parking wavers, at least they should of allowed that to have been grandfathered in. And also with the fact of 18 years of resident parking.
"But the fact of the targeted ticketing and that they will not let that actual fact be entered into public record, or at least seem to be trying not to let me say it in public -- that’s the first part of the destruction!
"They pretend it didn’t happen, but I know it did."
A Jan. 10 letter to Swan Place residents from Marie Krepelka, board administrator, shows the action selectmen are taking. It tells residents how to obtain an overnight parking permit. Residents had to send a letter requesting that by Friday, Jan. 18, to the selectmen's office.
Ten residents had applied for overnight permits, which cost $200 each, the selectmen's office reported Jan. 22.
Resident-only parking will officially end there as enforcement of new rules is set to begin Monday, Feb. 4. Selectmen will be hearing the requests for overnight parking at their meeting on Monday, Jan. 28, starting at 7:15 p.m. in the selectmen's chambers, second floor, Town Hall.
The written rules for Swan Place are expected to be available after the Feb. 4 meeting.
This story was published Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, and updated the next day.
NOTE: On Jan. 22, Gilligan said Number of vehicles registered in town fluctuates annually and that as of Nov. 30, 2012, there were 35,456.
In the town planning office, Joey Glushko wrote, "The number [of households] varies -- depending on what group is collecting the data and the intended use of the data. Generally, 18-19,000 is the number used. The 2010 U.S. Census gave numbers in the 18,200 area."