Parking Meter Mess Goes to Court

Change Is Bad For City's Parking Meters, Group Says.

Chicagoans are pissed about parking meters.

A group called The Independent Voters of Illinois (IVI-IPO) filed a lawsuit in Cook County Court Wednesday claiming Chicago’s more than $1 billion deal to privatize the city’s parking meters was illegal and should be voided because there was no public debate on the issue.

“This is a horrible deal for Chicago taxpayers,” IVI-IPO spokesman Owen Brugh said.  “But IVI-IPO intends to hold the city accountable.  Even the City of Chicago has to follow the law.”

City officials said the suit was "wholly without merit," according to Chicago Public Radio.

Nonetheless, Chicago will "aggressively defend" the lease if the case ever goes to trial.

The group's complaint says that the city's privatization deal violates state law for numerous reasons including the fact that through the deal the city essentially provides police back-up for a private collection firm when their police officers issue tickets to parking scofflaws.

Plus the language in the contract makes the city responsible for reimbursing the private firm if it changes parking hours or removes a space for construction purposes.

They're also upset that the city undersold the deal. Chicago got $1.15 billion for the privatization but a report from the City of Chicago Inspector General placed the value of the deal between $2 and $3.5 billion.

The group is not alone in its complaint.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan launched an investigation into the privatization deal as well.

The Daley administration has said the deal will allow it to shore up budget deficits.

“Under this agreement, we will use funds from the parking meter lease to substantially add to the city’s long-term reserves, help balance this year’s budget, support people in need, and create a rainy day fund to help Chicago work through these difficult economic times,” said Mayoral Chief of Staff Paul A. Volpe.

“While other cities and states are struggling to find ways to help balance their budgets, we’re creatively working to protect our property taxpayers for years to come.”

Since the privatization deal took effect the cost of parking has doubled, and nights and weekends are no longer free.

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