City Council Passes Parking Meter Plan

The City Council on Wednesday passed Mayor Rahm Emanuel's revised deal with the private company that manages the city's parking meters.

The deal was supported by many aldermen as the council passed the plan with a 39-11 vote, despite concerns from city residents.

"We are tripping over hundred dollar bills to pick up nickels," said Ald. Jason Ervin. "As a council we would be irresponsible not to do this."

As part of a settlement in the city's legal battle with the private company that oversees Chicago's street parking, Chicago Parking Meters LLC has agreed to stop charging on Sundays in the city's neighborhoods beginning in late summer, Emanuel said.

In return parking costs will be extended to 10 p.m. during the week in blocks where metered parking ends at 9 p.m. Times will be extended from 9 p.m. to midnight in the area bordered by the Chicago River to the South, the lake to the East, Division Street to the North and the Chicago River to the West.

Residential streets where meters run until 6 p.m. will not be extended.

"Does anyone remember 2008? Did we not learn anything? Here we are now five years later. Where did all that money go?" said Ald. Bob Fioretti. "We didn't just lease an asset. We leased our sovereignty. Some lemons shouldn't be made into lemonade, they should be returned to the store for a refund."

Some aldermen, however, said that while the plan might be good for the city, they acknowledged it put a greater burden on Chicago residents.

"If I worked for you Mr. Mayor, I would support the deal. but I work for my constituents, so I will vote no," said Ald. Leslie Hariston.

The City Council finance committee approved the plan on Monday, despite a challenge from two Chicago aldermen, who offered a substitute plan that the committee ultimately voted down.

Emanuel last month introduced to the City Council the revised agreement to the city's 75-year deal with CPM. Emanuel also said there would be $1 billion in savings over the life of the contract.

Even though the new deal has won the endorsement of several 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?"

Ald. Reilly and Ald. Scott Waugespack challenged the plan Monday at the council's Finance Committee meeting, saying the parking meter plan should be broken into two parts: the "true-up" settlement and the extended hours. The committee denied the challenge in a 14 to 5 vote stating an independent analysis of the true-up is a better deal for the city.

But Waugespack said his staff has been crunching numbers and said the private company, Chicago Parking Meters LLC, could actually come ahead in the deal.

The city disputes those numbers and says CPM will lost $1 million each year in the trade off.

"It’s about politics; it’s not about the bottom line for taxpayers for the city," Waugespack said.

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