There's a bar in downtown Cincinnati somewhere, I'm absolutely certain of it, where the parking-meter police hang out. Herb "the Hit Man," Irving "the Enforcer," Tony "the Terminator" and the rest of them.

"Hey, Irv!" Tony the Terminator will shout out between Buds. "How many poor saps did you sucker punch today?"

Irv will blush with modesty. He knows he's safely set the year-end record for issuing parking summons. They don't call him Enforcer for nothing.

It's Irving, Herb, Tony and their ilk who make lives for the rest of us"”those who work and frequent downtown, that is"”miserable. Here we are, having the audacity to conduct business. To park our cars in one-hour and half-hour spots. To dash in here and there to attend meetings. To actually engage in the exchange of commerce and otherwise contribute to downtown's bottom line through the effort of producing profits (and paying the accompanying taxes that go along with such endeavors).

You'd think we"”the loyal members of the downtown work force"”would be hailed as heroes by the governmental administration types. That some form of gratitude would be shown to those of us who didn't choose to escape to the luxury of the suburbs and exurbs, those of us who did not make the decision to transplant our corporate offices to the Kenwoods, Blue Ashes and/or Florences of the world. Where the parking lots, I might hasten to add, are free.
Instead, tax-funded employees"”in the form of the parking meter Gestap'”give us the shaft at every turn possible.

Often, I've missed getting back to my car by just a few moments, and arrived to find the sidewalk KGB has already gleefully scribbled me a summons simply because I failed to cut a business meeting short at the appointed hour to feed their insatiable parking habit.

My co-workers in the office tell the same story. At our offices on Garfield Place, we've seen three or four of these demons at a time, hovering around automobiles, counting down the last seconds of life in the ticking meters. Cheerfully dressed in black, these four Horsemen of the Apocalypse seem to revel in the misfortune of downtown workers wh'™ve simply parked to purchase a novelty, frequent a shop, or otherwise contribute to the well-being of the downtown tax coffers.

I've strolled just a few blocks over from Garfield Place, to the various centers of government, where I'm comforted to see that our glorious leaders have secured themselves reserved parking spots on the street, duly labeled with signs warning of impending doom should any hapless taxpayer park in THEIR guaranteed space.

Perhaps, as the new governmental administrations formulate their plans for reviving the fortunes of the center city, they should pay some attention to the actual value gained in collecting a few paltry dollars from the downtown work force via parking fines. Perhaps they should weigh this questionable income against the negative impact of discouraging downtown commerce and making the lives of downtown workers and shoppers as difficult as possible.

Perhaps Irving the Enforcer and his ilk should be taken aside and informed of certain economic realities. That their salaries are paid for by the rest of us, and sometimes we could just use a five-minute break if we've failed to sprint back to our parking spots in time.

Better yet, perhaps Irv and the rest should be found new occupations. Imagine a downtown without parking meter police, where industrious citizens can feel free to conduct business without the pressure of ticking meters and impending fines.

And, for the record, Irv, I don't drive a blue Ford Taurus. I don't park it on Garfield Place. That's not me, Irv, I swear it.