IG Says City Lost Nearly 4 Billion Quarters

Parking meter deal was "hasty," "dubious," Inspector General says

Think that 75-year lease on Chicago's parking meters was a faulty, rushed deal?  Then we've got good news for you:  Chicago's Inspector General agrees with you.

David Hoffman said city officials ignored long-term consequences in a "hasty" effort to solve short-term budget problems when they agreen to the $1.15 billion deal to privatize the parking meter-system.  The 45-page report, released Tuesday, (.pdf) says an investigation shows officials didn't consider viable alternatives or provide any meaningful public review of the decision.

The sentiment echos those published in the Chicago Reader in April:  "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," the sub-head of the cover story said.

The lease quadrupled parking rates in some neighborhoods and caused an outcry from residents.

The city said they hired a third party who valued the parking meters between $650 million to $1.2 billion, but the Hoffman argues that the meters were worth much more than that.  Their conservative estimate adds up to $2.13 billion, a number that suggests Chicago taxpayers got a raw deal and missed out on $974 million over the 75 years (that's 3,896,000,000 quarters).

The details of the lease agreement were revealed for the first time on Dec. 2, 2008.  The City Council approved it two days later.  Months later, some aldermen began to think their decision to lease was a bad one.

"There was no meaningful public review of the decision," Hoffman wrote.

Mayor Richard Daley said the city needed the money and went with the highest bidder.

"If we didn't have this money, you had better believe we would be in the tank," the mayor said.

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