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Group alleges meter lease illegal

December 23, 2009 1:53:37 PM PST
A lawsuit has been filed over Chicago's parking meters. The suit claims the city acted illegally when it leased its parking meter system to a private company for more than $1 billion. The Independent Voters of Illinois Independent Precinct Organization, or IVI-IPO, filed the lawsuit against the City of Chicago Wednesday morning in circuit court of Cook County. It seeks to void the sale.

"They would have realized that it robs the city of its ability to regulate its own streets without paying a severe penalty to Chicago Parking Meters, LLC," said Owen Brugh, IVI-IPO spokesperson.

"I think it was an illegal deal, because if they give the parking meters and sell it to another agency they should be the ones that are responsible for collecting the fees," said Darryl Reynolds, Chicago resident.

On February 13, 2009, the City of Chicago agreed to lease the approximately 36,000-space parking meter system to Chicago Parking Meters, LLC, a private company, for a 75-year lease. The city got $1.15 billion.

"According to some budget estimates, this money, this $1.15 billion, is gonna be gone by next year's budget. This is a horrible deal for Chicago taxpayers," said Brugh.

"It is beyond the authority of a local government to, basically, sell or lease the public ways," said Clint Krislov, attorney.

The suit challenges the city comptroller, Illinois secretary of state and Illinois comptroller's expenditures of public monies in order to maintain and enforce the privately held parking meter system.

The suit states that the 75-year lease deprives future City Councils from the chance to exercise control over city streets and that the city cannot ask the Illinois secretary of state to suspend driving privileges from violations at privately held meters.

"The suit is a citizen or taxpayer action to enjoin the expenditure of public funds for private purposes," said Krislov.

"It seemed like it just happened overnight and nobody knew about it, and now we're responsible for paying for this event. I think it's terrible," said Wendy Jaffe, Chicago resident.

Not everyone ABC7 talked to believes the meter system is illegal.

"I think the city did what it needed to do to get the revenue source at the time that it needed it, and that it's being administered the way it is is not the issue to me," said Vanessa Peoples, Chicago resident.

The secretary of state's office says they have no comment about the lawsuit until they have time to read it. Chicago Parking Meters, LLC, officials also said they have no comment.

IVI-IPO says, although the deal brought in more than $1.15 billion for the city, a report from the City of Chicago inspector general indicated that Chicago sold its parking meter system for only about half of what it was worth.


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