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Changes to parking-meter deal OKd by Finance Committee

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Updated: July 5, 2013 2:22PM

The City Council’s Finance Committee on Monday approved Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to trade a longer parking meter day for free neighborhood parking on Sundays after shooting down an attempt to drop the swap.

Aldermen Scott Waguespack (32nd) and Brendan Reilly (42nd) tried to persuade their colleagues to accept the settlement portions of the agreement but strip away the political sweetener negotiated in exchange for extended parking meter hours that, they fear, could enrich Chicago Parking Meters LLC by $5 million to $11 million a year.

Their substitute ordinance failed by a vote of 14-6. Corporation Counsel Stephen Patton warned that the move would jeopardize a larger agreement that would relieve Chicago taxpayers of $1 billion in liabilities over the remainder of the widely despised, 75-year parking meter lease.

“There’s no guarantee, and there’s substantial risk,” Patton said.

If the overall plan is approved, Emanuel has offered to let individual aldermen opt out of free Sunday parking if they’re concerned that the freebie would adversely affect neighborhood commercial strips by encouraging motorists to tie up spaces all day. There are certain to be at least a few takers.

“I know the mayor is trying to make lemonade out of lemons. But this is really sour for business,” said Maureen Martino, executive director of the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce.

The Finance Committee voted 15-6 to approve Emanuel’s take-it-or-leave-it offer.

The free-Sundays-for-extended-hours swap is part of a broader agreement that calls for the city to pay Chicago Parking Meters $63.8 million to settle years of disputed claims stemming from spaces taken out of service because of construction, special events and parking changes and an arbitrator’s ruling on compensation tied to free parking provided to motorists with disabled placards.

Monday’s vote sets the stage for full Council approval on Wednesday. The outcome is not in doubt.

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