Daley defends parking meter deal

June 3, 2009 2:54:55 PM PDT
One day after a report is made public blasting Chicago's billion dollar deal to lease the city's parking meters, Mayor Daley angrily defended the controversial agreement.He disputed claims the city council rushed into the deal.

The city received just over a billion dollars from the LAZ corporation for the parking meter lease.

On Tuesday, the city's inspector general said the lease was worth much more.

The mayor repeatedly described the parking meter lease as a quote "very, very responsible agreement". He called the inspector general's report "second guessing"...and accused critical aldermen of being less than truthful about their knowledge of the deal before it was closed.

"I understand people's right to criticize the decisions we make. That comes with my job. But we also have a right to challenge their conclusions," said Mayor Daley.

The mayor said the city's 36,000 parking spaces were, at best, worth the $1.15 billion price tag paid by the private company that leased them for seventy five years.

On Tuesday, Inspector General David Hoffman reported the system's value to the city was over $2.1 billion and that the city council should have been given more than two days to approve the deal after the winning bid was finalized.

The mayor used charts to demonstrate how his staff arrived at what it believed was market value and told reporters the cash-starved city really needed the money.

"Without the new parking meter plan we would have been forced to raise, first of all, pot taxes in this year's budget," said Daley.

"When this deal came down, I specifically asked is this the best possible deal? I was told yes. Apparently it was not the best possible deal," said Ald. Ed Smith, 28th Ward.

Earlier, the city council approved an ordinance requiring a 15 day review for any future lease deals. But Alderman Edward Burke claimed his colleagues knew about the meter deal at least 10 months in advance.

"This was not exactly something done in the dark of night," said Ald. Edward Burke, 14th Ward.

Since privatization, the parking system has been plagued with broken equipment and overcharges. Alderman Joe Moore sees an opportunity to break the lease.

"Their opportunity was to provide the city with working parking meters at the rates that are clearly advertised and that hasn't been done," said Ald. Joe Moore, 49th Ward.

But the mayor says the deal has worked well and took responsibility for any operational problems.

"The only mistake we made, we should have done a transition, maybe three months," said Daley.

Aldermen Flores, Riley, and Dahl introduced an ordinance to require a 60-day period for lease deals. In response to the talk of a possible attempt to break this lease, the contractor has hired the Winston Strawn law firm headed by former Governor Jim Thompson.


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