All those quarters and credit card payments add up. Last year, Chicago Parking Meters LLC collected $108, 506,142 worth of meter money.
The parking meter company wants more money. The contract calls for it to be reimbursed for meters taken out of service due to things street closures, even parades. They also insist on being paid for the free parking people with disabilities receive. In all, it amounts to nearly $50 million. And City Hall is saying no.
"I want a good look at their books. Because they are not a good corporate partner for the city, and it's a bad deal for the city and I'm going to make sure we stop it," said Emanuel.
Easier said than done.
The two sides have been engaged in a written war of words for months.
In letters to the Emanuel administration, the parking meter firm's CEO calls the city's claims "patently incorrect" and "extremely disappointing." The company is now demanding a mediator resolve the dispute.
"We are committed to providing Chicago with the best parking meter system possible," said Dennis Pedrelli, Chicago Parking Meters LLC CEO, in May of 2009.
Pedrelli runs Chicago Parking Meters. But the company is actually controlled by a series of investment groups - chief among them Morgan Stanley.
Documents filed two years ago indicate investors' $1.1 billion purchase of the city's parking meters may yield them $11.6 billion over the 75 year life of the deal. That's money made, one quarter at a time.
"Rates have gone up, they're absurd. At this point, it's easier to valet park than it is to park on the streets," said Kamilah Jones, driver.
Responding to Mayor Emanuel's plan to audit their books, the parking meter company released a short statement Monday. The firm stands by its claims that the city owes it millions in penalties.
Few believe the mayor has a chance at undoing this deal. The only stick he holds is perhaps a threat to bar Morgan Stanley from future city business.