It seems like the merchants or the mall owners would pay parking. I'm not sure why the city is in the business of building garages. Seems like if merchants and retail real estate owners wanted us to shop, they would build parking. Or maybe the city should pay for the parking structures through "invisible" sales taxes or some other hidden tax.
We always cruise up and down the parking aisles looking for meters with 2 1/2 hours left. Since they require a minimum 3 hour limit and about half the people are just "running in" for something, you can usually find a meter with 2 1/2 hours or at least a good start so you don't need to go rummaging through the car seats for find two quarters. And they stop checking the meters after 6 on Saturday so we only needed to find a meter with a hour.
This arrangement makes the mall parking garage a better deal than the other city garages where you can't pick up the parking meter droppings of the last person who parked in the spot.