The proposed new adaptation of Chicago's parking meter deal was discussed Friday during the first public hearing on the topic, without parking officials in attendance. Though the city asked top officials of Chicago Parking Meters LLC to attend, the group sent a letter back through their attorneys declining the invite.
"One thing almost everybody in Chicago agrees upon is that the original parking meter deal was a bad deal for the city and its taxpayers," corporation counsel Stephen Patton said.
Patton and Chief Financial Officer Lois Scott tried explaining to the council's finance committee how the Emanuel administration is trying to make, as the mayor has said, lemonade out of lemons.
The new agreement allows for free parking for much of the city on Sundays, but it expands the hours for parking meters in the Central Business District.
"We have a choice," Scott said. "We can remain settled with this deal for the next 71 years, from now through February 2084. Or we can try to provide residents with some breathing room by directing the financial risks inherent in the deal, provide greater convenience for motorists and allow free Sunday parking."
Even though the new deal has won the endorsement of 24 aldermen, many worry it may even be worse than the first.
"To be very clear," Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) said, "one of the key components of making this free Sunday swap work is returning the 828 spaces to the operator in exchange for gaining back less-valuable parking lots, is that correct?"
"As part of the overall settlement package, that is correct."
To help cut the amount the city has to reimburse Chicago Parking Meters LLC, it plans to crack down on disability parking abuse with new placards like the one unveiled Friday before the committee.
"First and foremost this is a settlement agreement," Patton said. "CPM is releasing its claims to more than $49.8 million ... that we've been disputing the past two years in exchange for a one-time, lump-sum payment of $8.9 million. That's the best we can do."
Emanuel has said he wants to give the council 30 days or more to look at the revised deal. When the last deal was introduced, the council was given three days.