Stricter Actions on Illegal Parking
By Jesús Aguado
The idea of placing parking meters in the Historic Center has been on the books since 2005. It is a proposal strongly supported by the Director of the Traffic Department, Samuel Mercadillo, and several companies have visited the local administration to offer the service. However, the final decision would be made by the city council after taking citizens’ opinions into consideration through a public referendum.
Last month, the traffic topic was unleashed on social networks and in the media. Also, the president of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) is calling on the citizens to sign a request addressed to the city council, asking for the firing of Samuel Mercadillo. The PRD president mentioned the reason: in the last six months 10,500 traffic fines have been issued by the Department, and in addition 1,100 vehicles have been towed to the municipal parking lots (and other private lots) by tow trucks belonging to the traffic department Director’s brother, Jesús Mercadillo.
Source of the topic
On January 10 this year, the officers from the traffic department started removing vehicle plates after cars were parked on certain streets for more than one hour. The fine went from two to ten minimum wages, 146—730 pesos.
Director Samuel Mercadillo told Atención that the reason was the need to offer parking spaces to those persons who come to El Centro to perform various activities. Most of the spaces, he assured, are occupied by business owners and workers who do not give others the opportunity to find a spot. Mercadillo said in addition that even the president of the Ignacio Ramírez Market requested that he enforce the local regulation of traffic on calle Colegio, where all the spaces were used by market vendors, and no spots were left for the potential clients.
The director assured that between October 19 and 21, 2015, several studies were conducted. The first showed that on certain streets (Jesús, Colegio, Reloj, San Francisco, and Murillo, among others), there were 269 cars parked, and in a period of 14 hours, only 26 left their parking spaces. The same study showed that only 375 vehicles spend the night on El Centro streets. “They must belong to people who live nearby,” he said.
Mercadillo remarked that in the World Heritage area and its buffer streets, there are only 1351 parking spots. There are 1806 more in the 20 public parking lots (the biggest is El Cardo, with space for 630 vehicles). The director also mentioned figures from the National Institute of Statistics which, he said, recorded that there were 38,871 vehicles in San Miguel in 2014, not counting those in transit through the city.
Options for those impacted and possibility of parking meters
Mercadillo assured that those who have complaints against the one-hour maximum regulation are mainly the workers who arrive in El Centro very early and do not move until 7pm or later. “But nobody else has complained,” he said. He also remarked that only 60 parking spaces are under discussion. They are on calle Colegio, the first part of Hidalgo; the second part of Mesones; the first part of de San Francisco and the first part of Canal. On the other streets of El Centro, there are more than 1,000 places that these people can use.
Mercadillo advised that if people leave their cars in those 60 spots, they have to be aware that after one hour, they have to move their car. He recommended that they do not bring their cars to El Centro but use the public transportation instead. They can walk to El Centro or they can use a parking lot for an undetermined time. About the complaints on social media, Mercadillo noted, “They all have the right to express themselves, but if they have a driver’s license, they are also obligated to know and respect the traffic regulations.” The traffic regulations note in article 97 that vehicles can be parked “on the authorized days and scheduled hours after paying the price in zones with parking meters.”
About the possible placing of parking meters in the Historic Center, he assured that several companies offering the service have visited the local government. This is a topic that is still being analyzed, and until now there is no answer.
“Are the parking meters needed in the World Heritage Site?” we asked. Mercadillo answered, “If you ask me as a citizen, I would say yes.” Then we asked him if he would respond the same way as the director of traffic, and he answered, “I still say yes.”
The regulation being enforced was published in the state newspaper in 2005. Mercadillo said that the regulation has existed since then, but other administrations have not respected it. “What we are doing helps more people than those being impacted,” said the director.
Tow trucks and family business
On social networks, towing of vehicles to the municipal parking lot (or to other private lots) with tow trucks belonging to the director’s brother, Jesús Mercadillo, was denounced. In that regard, the Secretary of the City Council, Gonzalo González, besides confirming the fact, gave an explanation. González assured that those are the only tow trucks in the city authorized by the state government to offer the service. González assured that the number of trucks the local administration has are insufficient to tow more than 30 vehicles per week.
After being criticized for using the Grúas Mercadillo, a family business, the director said that neither he nor his brother was making any money from it because more than 1015 vehicles have been towed, and his brother’s company has taken only 177. The municipal truck moved 131 of them. The others, mostly motorcycles, were taken to the parking lot in cargo trucks or driven by the owners.
Those towed automobiles, according to Gonzalo González and Mercadillo, have been detained as a guarantee of payment of a fine when they are involved in an accident, when the drivers are under the effects of alcohol, when they are parked in illegal spaces blocking the circulation, and when they were unable to prove ownership of the property.
The president of the PRD Party, David Cano, charged, “Samuel Mercadillo is using the fines to make money, and he says that he has zero tolerance. I make a call to all the citizens to have zero tolerance with him and sign a request for his removal.” Formally, he has not presented the request because, he told Atención, he will talk on May 3 and 14 with all those citizens who have been impacted by the traffic direction. After that he will decide, but he mentioned that a letter will be handed over to Mayor Ricardo Villarreal for sure.
Gerardo Arteaga, city councilor and president of the Traffic Commission, told Atención that the topic shouldn’t be politicized. He said that Mexico has to be a country where the law is respected “and San Miguel is not an island.” According to Arteaga, in Mexico there is a serious problem of pointing out what others should do, but not what we should do. “We do not assume our responsibilities. We like to say the law has to be enforced in our neighbors’ houses, but not in ours. Enforcing the traffic regulation is not a choice; we have to do it if we want to have a better city.”
Arteaga remarked that when he and the director were sworn in, they swore to respect and enforce the law, “and that is what we are doing.” He said further that if citizens do not like the law, they can address a proposal of reform to the legislators so they can reform it.
“I ask people to change. If the law is enforced on them, then they have to respect it. But filing a request to fire somebody just because he enforces the law? Please! I wish there were more Samuel Mercadillos in México.”
Finally, he said that a letter from Cano does not have to be addressed to Mayor Villarreal but to the municipal comptroller. “That office has to conduct an investigation on the case, and if there are recommendations, the comptroller will send them to the city council which would then have to fire, punish, or disqualify Mercadillo.”
“Samuel Mercadillo is using the fines to make money, and he says that he has zero tolerance. I make a call to all the citizens to have zero tolerance with him and sign a request for his removal.”—David Cano
“Filing a request to fire somebody just because he enforces the law? Please! I wish there were more Samuel Mercadillos in Mexico.”—Gerardo Arteaga
“I was invited by Mayor Ricardo Villarreal to be Director of Traffic, and I am not doing more than enforcing the law”—Samuel Mercadillo
“80 percent of the buses used for public transportation are in good condition, 20 percent are within the law.”—Marco Antonio Rodríguez