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where there's smoke: A building under construction next to the Logan Police Station caught fire from a welder's spark. Damage was estimated at $50,000. / Photo by Gideon Oakes

Today's word on journalism

August 27, 2008

On protests at political conventions:

"The citizens of Denver and St. Paul, and Americans everywhere, should hope officials in those cities already have considered both the constitutional and monetary costs of silencing voices that have a right to be heard. . . . Well-expressed or wacky. Irritating or illuminating. Respectful or raucous. There's nothing in the 45 words of the First Amendment that sets out any such qualifications or limits on protests. Time and again in our history, from women's suffrage to civil rights to tax protests, to name just some, voices first raised in the streets -- to the disgust or disappointment of some -- have led to significant, positive changes in law and American life."

--Gene Policinski, executive director, First Amendment Center, 2008

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$81 for a student parking pass buys . . . idling, waiting, hunting

By Whitney Schulte

May 12, 2008 | For many students, one of the biggest challenges of going to school is getting there. While many students live on and around campus within walking distance, there are also a number of others from around the valley who drive to school every day.

Students living off-campus have three options when choosing a parking pass for the whole year, including the summer semester. They can purchase an economy parking permit for $20, which allows them to park either at the stadium, or below Old Main Hill, and then take the Aggie Shuttle to their final destination. Also available is an Aggie Terrace Permit for $200, which allows students to park in the new terrace. And of course, the "B" permit. This permit is $81 and allows students to park in a number of lots. The most popular B lots are on the south side of U.S. 89 and east of the Big Blue Terrace.

The Utah State University Department of Parking and Transportation Services says in their vision statement that they "will provide the highest value service in an efficient, responsive, and accountable manner." They also add that "they will ensure parking and transportation needs are met for all users."

Some students do not agree with this statement.

Joe Williams, a junior at USU, is one of those students. Every Tuesday and Thursday, Williams makes the five-minute drive from his parents' house to the university. At the beginning of the fall 2007 semester, he purchased a "B" parking permit. The designated B parking lot of Williams' choice is the lot east of the Big Blue Terrace.

As Williams turns his silver 2007 Nissan Altima into the parking lot, he is greeted with an unpleasant sight that has become all too familiar. The parking lot is jammed like the Pacific Coast Highway during rush hour. Students in their idling vehicles are waiting at both ends of every row of parking stalls.

"Good thing I gave myself an extra 20 minutes today," Williams says to his passenger.

After 10 minutes of idling in one of the middle rows waiting to park, Williams sees a girl trudging wearily towards the row he's in. Finally! As she gets in her car and reverses, Williams flips his blinker on and zips neatly into the spot. For today, Williams has solved the parking dilemma. But the question many students are asking is this: If you spend $81 on a parking permit, shouldn't you be able to park without so much hassle?

In response to that question, Williams replies, "It's ridiculous to spend that much on a parking pass that is supposedly for 'convenience,' and still have to leave my house almost a half-hour in advance," he said.

Williams also has complaints about the additional $2 hourly fee you have to pay in the parking lot after you have been there more than two hours. "If you pay $81 for a "B" parking permit you should have more than two hours before you have to pay a fee," he said.

Most students who choose to use the aforementioned two most popular "B" lots face the problem of either having to move their car between classes, or being forced to pay the additional parking fee so they won't be late. "It's a tough debate and usually depends on what we're doing in class," Williams said, "If we are having a test or something, I'll be forced into paying the additional fee, because if I'm late I can't take it."

Should students be forced to spend their hard-earned paychecks on parking after they've already paid a flat fee for the permit at the beginning of the year? And why is the "B" Lot by the Big Blue Terrace the only one that is charging extra? A source from the Parking & Transportation Services Department says they "know they have a problem," and charge this money for the most popular lot because they "want to create a high turnover rate."

For most students this is not enough of an explanation. Williams says, "I would also like to know why they sell so many permits when there are always multiple people on every row waiting for spots."

Another source of frustration for students is the number of parking spots in the lot that are designated as "service stalls." Teresa from the Parking & Transportation Services Department says there are 140 regular parking stalls, seven handicapped stalls, and 6 service stalls in that particular "B" lot.

"It's really annoying to drive into the parking lot and find all these people waiting," Williams says, "Then when you go to the last row, every single service spot is empty. What a waste of space."

Williams believes the parking problem could be solved by simply adding another level onto one of the "B" lots, or limiting the number of passes sold. Many students would agree.

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