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Aldermen grill Emanuel aides on proposed parking meter settlement

Rich Hein~Sun-Times

Rich Hein~Sun-Times

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Updated: June 30, 2013 6:39AM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s aides again spent hours Tuesday answering questions from Chicago aldermen about a proposed settlement with the operator of the city’s parking meter system.

But what really got under some aldermen’s skin was the absence of the operators.

“These guys lied to us four years ago, and I don’t trust them today,” said Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th). “And they don’t even have the guts to come before this council.”

Ald. Ed Burke (14th) invited representatives of Chicago Parking Meters LLC to Tuesday’s meeting of the finance committee he chairs. Their lawyers responded with a letter expressing fear that their testimony could affect pending litigation with Chicago.

Some aldermen were left to simply complain about the “bill of goods” they said was sold when the parking meter deal was passed under former Mayor Richard M. Daley.

“It ended up being a real stinker,” said Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd).

Under the settlement, city officials have said the company would give up about $8.9 million a year by offering free parking in most neighborhoods on Sundays, only to make back about $7.4 million from extended meter hours.

Aldermen questioned the validity of those numbers last week. Corporation Counsel Steve Patton and Lois Scott, the city’s chief financial officer, set out at Tuesday’s meeting to explain how they were calculated.

Scott went as far as to show aldermen examples of the raw data the city receives from the parking meters and how it is processed by the city. Among the factors the city’s analysis took into account, she said, was the behavior of people who use the parking meters during a day’s final hour of enforcement.

The report was well-received by some aldermen pleased with its level of detail. But Patton and Scott also found themselves fielding questions and complaints about settlement negotiations that went on without the participation of the council and the possibility of putting ads on parking meter receipts.

Scott also told the aldermen that the city doesn’t have a right to buy its way out of the parking meter deal. Even if it did, Patton said current interest rates mean the timing’s not right.

“Now would be probably about the worst possible time to buy it back,” Patton said.

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