Notes On Parking Meter Lease Remix Committee Hearings

City of Chicago CFO Lois Scott and Corporation Counsel Steve Patton testify before the City Council Finance Committee this past week.

There’s already been two days worth of tense and contentious hearings at City Hall with more scheduled for this Friday.

Last week Friday and this Tuesday, city council members sat through all day hearings in the Finance Committee listening to testimony on Mayor Emanuel’s renegotiated parking meter lease went Friday at City Hall.

Corporation Counsel Steve Patton and the city’s Chief Financial Officer Lois Scott were at the eye of the storm of intense and often heated scrutiny of aldermen both days.

Both days, Scott and Patton gave a rundown of the details of the meter lease remix which has two main components. First, the city’s team of negotiators got Chicago Parking Meters, LLC to agree to millions of dollars of discounts on the  many of the outstanding bills for street closures and other events which impacted the value of the meter system as well as moving forward, agreed to accept the city’s determination of the True Up events.

The second part is allowing free parking on Sunday at metered parking spots in the neighborhoods outside the Central Business District but then extending hours of enforcement one hour Monday through Saturdays from the now 9 PM to a proposed 10 PM.  In addition, meter hours in the River North entertainment district would be extended all the way until midnight.

Once their overview was finished on both days, aldermen aimed their barrage of questions and ire at Scott and Patton.

Here’s some notes, thoughts and stories from the hearings.

Reilly Revolts

Alderman Brendan Reilly (42nd), who’s ward encompasses River North has been the most testy. This is probably because his ward will be most effected with a three hour extension of meter hours until midnight.

Reilly had doubts about the city’s projections on extended meter hours in his ward and he’s working hard to defeat the ordinance.

“No one in this room knows if those projections will come true,” said Reilly Tuesday about estimates presented by the Mayor’s office. “We’ve been sold a bill of goods before. We don’t want to double down on a horrendous deal today.”

New True Up Calculator ‘App’

The City has a new system that allows it to track meter space closures as well as True Up revenue values using mountains of data from Chicago Parking Meters, LLC.

According to Chicago’s Chief Financial Officer Lois Scott, it took about a year for Chicago Parking Meters to turn over the data for 120 million parking transactions to the city.

Two important things here. First, that there’s been 120 MILLION meter transactions since 2009.

The other is that, despite being contractually obligated to turn over whatever data the city wants, CPM management dragged their feet a full year before they coughed up the data.

Armed with this data, the city can better understand Chicago’s metered parking environment and apply logic and resp0nsible fiscal policy to changes to the system.
Some Aldermen Say ‘No’ To Free Sundays

A handful of aldermen don’t want free Sunday parking in their wards–or at least in parts of their wards. And the city seems poised to oblige them.

Aldermen with highly congested retail areas say local business owners and Chamber of Commerce have asked a few of them they dislike the idea of free Sunday parking.  Free Sunday parking in heavily congested areas will only encourage drivers to squat in a parking spot all day say business owners.  Retail business owners prefer to see high turnover of parking in order to allow the maximum number of customers to shop there. If no one moves, less customers can spend their money there.

So aldermen like Rey Colon, Tom Tunney (44th), Scott Waguespack (32nd),  and Michele Smith (43rd) who have blocks and blocks of popular retailers in their ward.

Patton says if free Sundays are approved, aldermen can request to bring paid Sunday parking back.

But Colon felt politically, it’s a trap as he will end up being blamed for making people pay for parking on Sundays in his ward.

Ald. Waguespack was more concerned with Sunday parking confusion. He argued if some wards have free Sunday parking and others do not, it could be very confusing to drivers.


Split Decision

In general, most aldermen at the hearings were split on their feelings toward the Mayor’s proposed changes.

Aldermen overwhelming liked the idea of reconfiguring how non-meter revenue would be calculated in order to reduce out of pocket payments to CPM.

However, most were uneasy or even upset at the idea of giving away free Sunday parking in exchange for longer enforcement hours.

Time and time again aldermen asked about the possibility of stripping that aspect of the agreement out of the meter lease deal remix.

Each time Patton testified that in order to insure the allegedly hundreds of millions of dollars in savings over the next 71 years,  the ordinance would have to be passed. Otherwise, if the city went back to the negotiating table with CPM on the free Sundays proposal, it would risk having the entire deal fall apart.

“This is  delicate compromise,” explained Patton responding to a request for the city to re-open negotiations. “Approval by PM and its investors was far from assured. We pushed it to the limit. We believe there are investors who don’t think this is a good deal. I would implore you to not have me do that (open up negotiations).”

Deception?

During the course of last Friday’s hearings, Ald. Leslie Hairston (2nd) got a bit testy with Patton.

Hairston asked Patton about the possibility of pursuing legal action against William Blair, the consulting company which brought the idea to Mayor Daley and Katten Muchin, the law firm which helped put together the parking meter lease contract.

“My colleagues and I were deceived,” shouted Hairston . “As someone who was here (during the original meter lease approval in 2008) , it was misleading. Why are we not pursuing other legal remedies”

Hearings resume Friday. A vote is scheduled to bring the ordinance out of the Finance Committee and then before the entire City Council on June 5th this coming Monday, June 3rd.

For more in-depth coverage here’s DNA Info’s breakdown of last Friday’s and Tuesday’s meter lease hearings.

3 Responses to Notes On Parking Meter Lease Remix Committee Hearings

  1. Paul says:

    Wish they had spent this much time and effort the first time around. Maybe the city could have got more money and a much shorter contract.

  2. DoR Employee says:

    I wonder if these meetings are open to the public. Would love to see the geek walk in and start asking some hard questions about how all of a sudden the aldermanic council wants to be cautious about the proposed changed when they should have revolted against Daley and the initial lease in the first place.

  3. Mike says:

    City council will go along with the mayor. They always do. Another dog and pony show.

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