City Council passes parking meter deal changes

June 6, 2013 2:36:52 AM PDT
The Chicago City Council has passed proposed changes to the city's parking meter deal with private company Chicago Parking Meters LLC.

The new deal, passed by a vote of 39-11, could save the city $1 billion in bills that the company claims the city owes and allows free parking in most neighborhoods on Sundays in exchange for extended meter hours downtown.

The parking deal also gives customers the option of paying with a cell phone, but that would cost customers 35 cents per use in some cases. Overall, most aldermen say the parking deal was a bad deal from the beginning.

"When we look at what we have, sometimes, they say you take lemons and make lemonade, but sometimes when they are bad lemons, you should just return them to the store," said Ald. Bob Fioretti, 2nd Ward.

"I know the mayor is going to work really hard to take this crushing blow off the taxpayers, but we are gouging short-term parking and dis-incentivising short-term parking. that just makes it problematic," said Ameya Pawar, 47th Ward.

Some say free Sunday parking will hurt business because there would be low turnover of parked cars.

Some aldermen said they should scrap the new proposal altogether and continue to fight the initial parking deal that they say was simply bad for the city from the beginning.

While 11 nays is more than he usually gets, the City Council approved Mayor Rahm Emanuel's controversial parking meter plan.

"When you weigh all the equities, it's better for us than what we have. The alternative is what we know, and that deal I don't want to see again," Emanuel said.

The original deal was passed five years ago. It leased all of the city's parking meters for the next 76 years. The money the city received from it is nearly all spent.

42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly led the opposition. He is worried about how the extended parking hours will affect his downtown ward. Reilly and others are concerned the extra hours may result in another financial windfall for Chicago Parking Meters.

"Unfortunately, we brought more uncertainty. Frankly, we have to trust a whole new set of numbers no one in this chamber is qualified to understand," said Reilly.

"I'm going to respectively vote no because I don't think this deal should be bundled like a U-verse package," said Ald. Rey Colon, 35th Ward.

But many aldermen say the risk of a possible windfall with a longer parking day is worth it if it means shaving $1 billion from the remaining 71 years of the lease.

"For us to think about not doing this over Sundays... it's tantamount to tripping over $100 bills to pick up nickels," said Ald. Jason Ervin, 28th Ward.


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