City Council Approves Parking Meter Deal Remix 39-11
At Wednesday’s City Council meeting, 11 aldermen voted against Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s remix of the parking meter lease remix.
Emanuel’s renegotiated meter lease which better controls non-meter revenue from changes to the meter system value or street closures and gives free Sunday parking in neighborhoods in exchange for extending meter payment hours passed with strong support 39-11.
Despite the foregone conclusion of the vote’s outcome, before the meeting began at 10 AM, some low level shenanigans were taking place according to several sources on the city council floor.
Apparently, opposition aldermen had tried to distribute copies of the Tribune editorial critical of the proposed changes to the meter lease to fellow council members. But the copies were temporarily confiscated by someone in the administration for a short time until more reasonable heads prevailed in allow the editorial’s distribution.
The Mayor’s people were also twisting arms of no votes until the last minute, threatening political retribution in the future.
Council members took about an hour to debate the merits of the changes to the remaining 71 years of the agreement effecting the city’s 36,000 metered parking spaces.
Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) began the debate with an eloquent attempt at reminding his colleagues how the city council and the city got where it is today.
“Do any of us remember 2008? Did we not learn anything?”, Fioretti boomed. “No one from Chicago Parking Meters, LLC appeared (at hearings). Their silence was deafening. I hear crickets. I feel like it’s deja vu all over again.”
Fioretti continued with his poignant review of what went wrong with the original meter lease and what he felt was wrong with Mayor Emanuel’s proposed changes.
“We didn’t just lease away an asset,” Fioretti continued. “We leased away our sovereignty for 71 years. The True Up proves that.”
“Not all lemons should be made into lemonade,” Fiortetti said in reference to Emanuel’s “making lemon out of lemonade” reference a month earlier. “Some lemons should be returned to the store for a refund.”
Other aldermen felt the financial advantages easily outweighed any downside from the free Sundays and extended enforcement hours.
“I respectfully disagree with my colleague from the 2nd Ward,” said Jason Earvin. “We’re tripping over $100 bills to pick up nickels.”
“The bottom line is this is a tremendous amount of money that we can either pay or save,” said Ald. Patrick O’Conner the Mayor’s floor leader.
Ald. Ariel Reboyas (30th) was realistic in his support for the changes.
“Am I jumping for joy?” Reboyas asked. “No.”
Perhaps the game changer for the Emanuel administration was hiring an outside consulting firm to analyze the revised deal with CPM. It turned out the approximately $250,000 the Mayor’s office spent on Navigant to conduct a study that unsurprisingly backed up the administration’s original numbers seemed to convince many aldermen to vote with the Mayor.
Although Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) was dismissive of Navigant’s report.
“I’m a little skeptical of third party studies when we pay for it,” explained Reilly who went on to advocate of splitting the financial concessions from the free Sundays and extended meter hours. “There’s nothing to prevent Corporation Counsel from going back to the negotiating table.”
Ald. Rey Colon, one of the original five no votes in 2008 calmly laid out his reservations about the new deal.
“As you know, I never approved of this marriage before, and I don’t approve of it today,” intoned Colon. “I’m going to respectfully vote no because it shouldn’t be bundled like a U-verse package.”
Another alderman on the original 2008 list of no votes, Leslie Hairstonn (5th) was on the same wavelength as Colon.
“Last go around I was not a supported of this deal,” Hairston said. “I’m in the same place again.”
Ald. Joe Moore (49th) was regretful of his vote in 2008, but decided to support this revised deal.
“I stand before you as one of the guilty ones who voted for the original deal,” Moore said. “I was wrong. Of all the thousands of votes I have taken this is the only one I regret.”
After the vote, Mayor Emanuel had a few words for city council members.
“I know this tested everyone’s patience,” said Emanuel. “This deal tests the patience of our residents every day. You did the right thing, as difficult as this was.”
All three of the five aldermen still in the city council who voted against the original meter lease deal, Colon, Hairston and Ald. Scott Waguesack (32nd) voted no the second time around.
They were joined by Fioretti, Reilly, Ald. Harry Osterman (48th), Ald. Michele Smith (43rd), Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th), Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th), and Ald. John Arena (45th).