Revised Meter Lease Clears First Hurdle, Heads To Full Council
Passes In Finance Committee, Full Voted Slated For Wednesday
After four long days of hearings on proposed changes to the city’s reviled parking meter lease agreement, the renegotiated deal made it over its first hurdle as it passed out of the Finance Committee Monday on a vote of 15 to 6.
Ald. Scott Waguespack, immediately after the vote Monday afternoon warned there will probably be unforeseen circumstances if it passes the city council.
“There’s a potential of a repeat of the original deal in 2008–people should be wary of that.” said Waguespack who accurately predicted problems from the original lease agreement.
The hearings began with testimony by Clint Krislov, the lead attorney on a lawsuit challenging the legality of the original parking meter lease. Krislov is opposed to the renegotiated deal as he believes it will weaken the city and public’s ability to fight the legal basis for the original agreement.
“Voting for this amendment will have you viewed as voting for the parking agreement,” said Krislov to the aldermen sitting in council chambers. “Like a circus passing through town every few years, these deals are Wall Street’s way of regaling with money acts that astound the crowd, while looting the spectators’ money.”
The lawsuit was dismissed by the Circuit Court of Cook County, but is now being prepared for an appeal in the Illinois Appellate Court. Krislov told aldermen he believes if the city had joined the lawsuit, the Circuit Court judge would have ruled to void the lease.
Krislov also believes the proposed changes from the Mayor is essentially a shell game which really doesn’t do anything to alleviate the effects of the original lease and just transfers the financial burden from taxpayers to parkers.
“The new offer to shift $20 million from the taxpayers to the parking public,” said Krislov. “In effect insuring CPM will receive $20 million in revenues without regard even to the true up uncertainties. We’re going to pay that 1 billion one way or another. Either taxpayers or drivers will end up paying it. CPM is going to be paid. It’s just a question of who pays it.”
After Krislov’s testimony and in a last ditch effort to derail the Mayor’s plan, Ald. Scott Waguespack introduced a substitute ordinance which splits the two major parts of the agreement which has some aldermen at odds with Mayor Emanuel. In general, most aldermen are supportive of the concessions to how non-meter revenue tied to street closures and impacts to the system’s value were determined. But many aldermen were generally opposed to the concept of free Sunday parking at neighborhood meters and extending the hours meters had to be fed.
“Sending the negotiators back at this point would be extremely dangerous,” said Steve Patton, the city’s top lawyer when asked his thoughts on the substitute ordinance. “There is no guarantee and substantial risk that CPM would say ‘no thanks’.”
The vote on the motion to adopt the substitute ordinance was not even close failing 14-5.
Waguespack says it’s only logical to pull apart the two aspects of the deal.
“The Mayor could get 50 votes if we pulled out the free Sundays and additional hours,” said Waguespack afterward.
The Finance Committee also heard from David Moes, the head of Navigant, a local consulting company which the city hired to check the veracity of their calculations on the proposed changes.
Moes’ reported that in Navigant’s view, the city’s numbers were too conservative and that the deal would actually be slightly more beneficial to Chicago than what was originally thought, essentially supporting every aspect of the numbers which came out of the Mayor’s office.
Both Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) pulled out a transcript from the original meter lease hearings where William Blair, the company that acted as sherpas for the original deal, to point out that they used some of the same language as Moes regarding their “conservative estimates.”
Moes, in a response to aldermanic questioning gave a rough estimate of $250,000 as the fees Navigant would end up billing the city for its services.
A few witnesses testified in front of the committee before the vote. Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce President Maureen Martino weighed in against free Sunday parking saying member businesses needed parking turnover even on Sundays.
“The mayor says he’s making lemons out of lemonade but this deal is really sour,” said Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce Maureen Martino.
Other aldermen, including Reilly and Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) stated they were hearing the same things from chambers in their wards.
The proposed ordinance with changes to the meter lease now goes before the full city council on Wednesday.