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This time, City Council wants longer review period on parking meters

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AP Photo/M. Spencer Green

Earlier this week, Mayor Emanuel announced tweaks to the city's horrendous parking meter lease that Daley left him with, claiming the changes will make things better (by giving some neighborhoods free Sundays) but may have actually made things a little worse (giving the leasing company an extra hour every other day of the week). And Emanuel's claim that he has saved the city $1 billion after settling a dispute with CPM over money owed by the city isn't as shiny as it appears; as Beachwood Reporter's Steve Rhodes explains: "Wow. That's like me getting $10 knocked off my phone bill this month and bragging that I've just saved $120 this year and $8,520 over the next 71 years because I was likely to have that same dispute with every forthcoming bill."

So with this wonky math still being worked out by aldermen and pundits alike, the City Council is skeptical they'll have enough time to review the tweaks, saying that the initial 30 days after the new deal is proposed at the May 8th meeting likely won't be enough. Ald. Brendan Reilly told WBEZ, "Thirty days? We'll see if that's enough time." This is the kind of response voters would hope to hear: a cautious review of a major change to a bad deal that will screw over residents either way but give local lawmakers time to make sure they can minimize the damage.

Too bad aldermen didn't act this way several years ago when then-Mayor Richard M. Daley shoved it down the Council's throat and most aldermen were only too happy to let him, voting 40-5* to approve the lease three days after Daley proposed it.

On Monday, Ald. Fioretti told our Fran Spielman of Mayor Emanuel's tweaks, "This is just more window dressing to let a bad deal continue ... and make everybody feel good for the day." And Fioretti told WBEZ that Mayor Emanuel's refusal to answer reporter questions after announcing his new deal left him uneasy: "This is supposed to be an open, transparent government that serves the people of the City of Chicago, and I don't see it from this kind of transaction."

But in December 2008, according to the Tribune's report of the meeting in which aldermen approved the deal, Fioretti apparently didn't have much of a problem with Daley's short turn-around time, saying, "I think it is a good ordinance that is going to help us in the next five years, when we are going to have a most difficult time. It is going to lessen the blow and be good for our people and good for the City of Chicago."

That, of course, still doesn't come close to the now-legendary verbal clustermess that Ald. Dick Mell uttered during the proceedings, now etched in stone somewhere on the side of City Hall as the Council's unofficial motto: "How many of us read the stuff we do get, OK? I try to. I try to. I try to. But being realistic, being realistic, it's like getting your insurance policy. It's small print, OK?" According to the Trib's report, Mell also called the original deal "a once-in-a-lifetime shot to grab this pool of money."

Yes, a pool of money that has since evaporated, with reports indicating there was little more than $125 million left of the original $1.15 billion deal by 2011. And Mayor Emanuel himself said on Monday all of that money has "been spent."

So as the City Council prepares to ask for more than a month to review these tweaks, it's unclear whether it's to cover their tracks after their colossal mistake in 2008 or if they really do intend to go over the deal with a fine-tooth comb in an attempt to put a shine on a big stinker. Either way, it doesn't really matter as they already doomed the city to this deal when they didn't care enough the first time around.

* - The five aldermen who voted against the deal were: Toni Preckwinkle (4th), Leslie Hairston (5th), Billy Ocasio (26th), Scott Waguespack (32nd) and Rey Colon (35th)

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