Androscoggin County State Senator Eric Brakey of Auburn has announced he’s submitted legislation to address a growing controversy in Portland. The issue at hand is how a business handles parking on their private property.
Senator Brakey, who calls himself a victim of parking company practices, has submitted emergency legislation to regulate parking companies in Portland after one of them “booted” his car and charged him $70 to have it released.
The most interesting aspect of this development isn’t that action is being sought against an oft-criticized business, but that a self-professed libertarian is betraying the philosophy of local governance and private property rights.
The premise of Senator Brakey’s argument here is that when an individual voluntarily parks their vehicle on private property, it establishes a contract with the business. Essentially, the business is at the mercy of the individual who voluntarily enters their property.
Senator Brakey feels that the terms of this contract are not fully disclosed on the signage. However, the signs at the parking lot in question prominently display that a maximum charge of $70 will be levied if someone overstays the time they pay for.
Brakey was over an hour late picking up his car, but claims the signs don’t specify how late someone has to be in order to incur the maximum penalty, and as a result he is now calling for the government to step in and mandate exactly what the company’s signs must say.
Like self-described socialist Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Brakey apparently believes that big government is necessary to protect everyday citizens from greedy big businesses.
The problem with this idea is Senator Brakey apparently believes that private property owners have no rights to their property, instead believing that visitors hold priority. Logically, this makes little sense. These customers voluntarily utilized a service without coercion. Given that this property is privately owned, the terms can be dictated by the owners.
Don’t like the terms of a service? Don’t use it. This is what we call the free market.
As Randy Billings of the Portland Press Herald noted, in order for this legislation to be considered in the next session, it would have to be considered emergency legislation by the Legislative Council.
With all the challenges we are facing, does private businesses governing their own property per private property rights qualify as an emergency issue? Hardly.
Instead, a State Senator is abusing his position to stage a taxpayer-paid revenge tactic against a business that charged him for overstaying his spot by an hour.
Senator Brakey’s counter? That while the signs state there is a maximum penalty of $70, the assumption of the visitor holds more weight than the private property owner.
Brakey is not without his defenders, however. In an online discussion, former lawmaker Stavros Mendros of Lewiston defended Brakey’s bill and compared the $70 charge to “murder”. Brakey himself called it “extortion”.
It’s hardly extortion, as the terms are clearly dictated on the sign. Brakey violated the clear signage and was fined to the maximum that was properly indicated. This issue isn’t about contracts, it’s about revenge. Senator Brakey feels he should be above the law and is now using his office to waste taxpayer money seeking revenge against a Portland business.
The best advice for the Senator here is to just pack up his liberal waste of taxpayer money and go home.