Chicago Parking Meters LLC, the Morgan Stanley-owned company that paid a paltry $1.15 billion for the right to loot city motorists until our grandchildren are too senile to drive, is raising parking rates again this month. We’ll be paying $5 an hour in the Loop, $3 an hour downtown and $1.50 everywhere else.
That’s the bad news. The good news is, Chicago Parking Meters is doing it all for the children.
The Chicago Parking Meters website does have a rate increase notice. But the rest of the front page is devoted to the company’s charitable work. Out of all the money CPM took in, it gave back a whopping $50,000 last year, starting with $10,000 to the Eliot Donnelly Youth Center, in Bronzeville.
In subsequent months, CPM Community Partners made the following donations:
· $10,000 in September to the National Foundation of Teaching Entrepreneurship, which trains instructors to work in high schools across the City of Chicago , helping young people develop entrepreneurial skills that enable them to start their own micro-businesses.
· $10,000 in October to the Avon Foundation for Women’s Breast Cancer Crusade, which supports Chicago facilities like Northwestern Memorial Hospital ’s Lynn Sage Comprehensive Breast Center and the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center .
· $10,000 in November to the Greater Chicago Food Depository, which now serves one in eight Chicagoans.
· $10,000 in December to Special Olympics Chicago, which featured a visit by LAZ Parking’s Kevin O’Hara, dressed as Santa to the Special Olympics’ snowshoeing and cross-country skiing event at Mann Park .
· Toys for the children and gift bags for the women served by Connections for Abused Women and their Children. Santa and his elves visited the shelter’s holiday party.
The website features a photo of Ald. John Pope, who voted for the parking meter, posing with Special Olympians in Mann Park.
I hate to be cynical about charity, but this is reminiscent of John D. Rockefeller trying to reform his robber-baron image by handing out dimes to children on the streets of the New York City. A mere $50,000 is not enough to compensate for the damage that high parking rates from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. have caused to Chicago’s commercial districts, by driving shoppers to the suburbs.
CPM’s image is so awful that the mayoral candidates have stopped running against each other and started running against the parking meter deal. Miguel del Valle is promising to sue the company, saying that allowing a private company to write a ticket is “unconstitutional.” Carol Moseley Braun said today she can get the city out of the deal, which only passed because the City Council was “snookered.” Gery Chico, who promises he won’t use the remaining $76 million in parking-meter money to balance the city budget, is getting into the act with a press conference this afternoon.
Chicago Parking Meters is squeezing the public so hard it’s in danger of losing its concession. If the company really wants to improve its image, it would cancel this month’s increase and end enforcement at 7 p.m. That would save Chicago motorists a lot of money. They’d probably donate some to charity.