City officials: Mayor’s meters revisions would benefit Chicago
BY DAVID ROEDER Staff Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org May 31, 2013 6:44PM
Chicago’s private parking meter company reaped more than $108 million in revenues last year — an increase over the past year of more than 50 percent, records show, and surpassing projections. Dispenser photographed on Thursday, May 3, 2012. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times
Updated: July 2, 2013 8:08AM
The 75-year lease of Chicago’s parking meters would become less valuable to its investors and cheaper for city officials to buy back if Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposed changes to the contract are ratified, Chicago aldermen were told Friday.
Members of Emanuel’s administration testified about the altered deal’s merits at a Finance Committee hearing. Asked about the possibility of buying back the widely reviled lease, Corporation Counsel Stephen Patton said, “We’re not foreclosing that possibility.”
But Patton said that at a time of record low interest rates, the income stream from the meters would command a high price. He said the city in effect “sold low” when it struck the original $1.15 billion lease deal in early 2009 because interest rates and competition for investors’ cash, were higher at the time.
Patton and Chief Financial Officer Lois Scott focused on a key change they seek: Changes in the calculation for money the city owes leaseholders for taking meters out of service. Emanuel has said the proposed settlement removes a $20 million annual payment obligation, or more than $1 billion over the life of the contract.
The leaseholders, Chicago Parking Meters LLC, also agreed to free metered parking in the neighborhoods on Sunday. In return, it got to extend meter hours by one hour other nights in the neighborhoods, to 10 p.m., and by three hours, to midnight, downtown and in River North.
Some aldermen said they were ready to back the revisions. “We voted for a stupid thing and now we’re trying to make it better to the tune of $20 million a year,” said Ald. Richard Mell (33rd).
Downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) said he will oppose the changes because they could lead to inconsistent parking rules that could vary by ward. Some aldermen are arguing for flexibility on issues such as free parking on Sundays.
“I’m worried this could lead to customer confusion and to parking tickets,” Reilly said. He also said the city may be underestimating the windfall that Chicago Parking Meters, a Morgan Stanley-led investment group, will get under the extended meter hours.
The Finance Committee will continue its hearing on the proposal Monday.