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Braun criticizes city's parking meter deal

January 4, 2011 4:19:12 AM PST
One mayoral candidate's vow to cancel the city's parking meter lease triggered a challenge by a fellow candidate, as well as skepticism by legal experts.

Carol Moseley Braun said Monday that the city was "snookered" by the investment company Morgan Stanley, which financed the deal to lease Chicago's parking meters to a private company. Braun said the meters were worth a lot more than the $1.2 billion paid for them, and she vowed that if elected mayor, she'd work to recover the city's losses.

"It was bad deal for Chicago and it continues to threaten to be bad for the next 75 years," said Moseley Braun.

Mayoral candidate Gery Chico challenged Braun to come up with specific plans to win a lawsuit that would not only undo the deal but repay the money.

"You can't wager with the taxpayers' money, the city treasury, to hope that some wild lawsuit will pay the dividends," he said.

Chico says he opposes the deal but accuses other candidates of holding out false hope of getting out of the deal.

Other mayoral hopefuls have expressed their interest in reversing the deal.

"This is a bad deal, and I think the next administration has to put forth a genuine effort to try and renegotiate this deal," candidate Miguel del Valle.

Alderman Scott Waguespack of the 32nd Ward voted against the deal two years ago. He says getting out of it now would be expensive. The city has already spent nearly all of the money.

"We would have to pay it back somehow. There's no getting out of jail free on this one," Waguespack said.

Legal experts say just about the only way the city could get out of the deal is for the private company to fail to live up to its end of the contract.

"The city is in a very ticklish place. Unless there's a court find of illegality, I think it would be very risky indeed for the city not to comply with its obligations," said Dean Harold Krent, IIT Chicago Kent Law School.

Parking one's car in the city got more expensive as rates at meters rose with the start of the New Year. It's an additional thorn in the side of many Chicago residents who believe they are already paying too much for parking.

"If they can make it cheaper, get whatever kind of deal, I mean, it would benefit everybody," said Anne Nathan.

There is already a lawsuit that was filed in this matter more than a year ago which basically alleges the city has no constitutional right to lease space on public streets to a private company. Even if that suit wins, however, no one has suggested how the city might repay the billion dollars it has spent.


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