Inside The Parking Meter Mess

The Daley way

The subhead to the Reader's cover story this week mess says it all: "How Daley and his crew hid their process from the public, ignored their own rules, railroaded the City Council, and screwed the taxpayers on the parking meter lease deal."

Indeed. The Reader's investigation - by the crack reporting duo of Mick Dumke and Ben Joravsky - will make you even angrier than you already are about having to carry all those quarters around. Their findings:

- "Once city officials decided to privatize the meters, they rushed into a deal with little regard for the financial risks or potential impact on the public, turning control of a revenue-generating city asset over to a company that had just qualified for federal bailout funds."

- "With the parking meter deal the mayor has figured out how to get the public to pay more for less control. Daley gets more control over resources—and less responsibility for delivering services in return."

- "The ever-fearful City Council let him run roughshod over them, passing the deal with virtually no consideration. The citizenry never even had a chance."

The Reader used the Freedom of Information Act to discover details to the deal never before made public, put together in a handy timeline including entries like this one:

"At 8:34 AM finance committee chair Ed Burke calls a special meeting for December 3 to discuss the deal; aldermen still have no information about who has bid or how much. At 3 PM, the mayor submits paperwork to the city clerk’s office calling a full council meeting for December 4 'for the sole purpose' of approving the agreement."

And this one:

"An ordinance is required to finalize the lease deal, and the finance committee meets to consider it. Ten minutes into the meeting some aldermen point out that they still haven’t seen it. After copies the orrdinance have been provided, many remain confused. Where are the details of the agreement? What’s the rush? Why haven’t you kept us informed before now? And who in the heck is the company that will be managing the meters?"

While on the subject of privatizing city assets, Dumke and Joravsky also come up with some gems on the now-troubled Midway Airport leasing deal, including this:

"Under questioning from 38th Ward alderman Tom Allen, [city budget chief Paul] Volpe reluctantly concedes the city will probably have to spend at least $1 billion on police and fire protection for Midway over the next 99 years, meaning the deal is essentially a money loser. Nevertheless, the council’s finance committee approves it, which virtually assures its passage."

Again, you can read the whole story here.

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