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Chicago Parking Meter Deal: City Council Approves Mayor's Tweaks To Contract Despite Concerns

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CHICAGO PARKING METER DEAL CITY COUNCIL
Cars speed past a Chicago parking meter kiosk across the street from St. Alphonsus Catholic Church Monday, April 29, 2013 on Chicago's North Side. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green) | AP

The Chicago City Council voted Wednesday to approve a proposed rework of the city's controversial parking meter deal.

The council voted 39-11 in favor of the plan pushed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The mayor claims the tweaked plan could save the city $1 billion bills in the years ahead. The City Council's Finance Committee had already approved the plan in a 14-5 Monday vote.

Voting no on the measure were Alds. John Arena (45th), Rey Colon (35th), Bob Fioretti (2nd), Leslie Hairston (5th), Harry Osterman (48th), Ameya Pawar (47th), Brendan Reilly (42nd), Debra Silverstein (50th), Michele Smith (43rd), Tom Tunney (44th) and Scott Waguespack (32nd).

Fioretti was among the councilmembers who spoke against the mayor's plan during a lengthy debate preceding the vote, referencing the initial approval of the parking meter lease and asking, according to WGN, "Do any of us remember 2008? Did we not learn anything?

Emanuel's tweaks to the city's deal with Chicago Parking Meters LLC, which leased some 36,000 of the city's meters in a $1.2 billion, 75-year privatization deal in 2008, include free parking on Sundays and extended meter hours every other day (from 9 to 10 p.m.), most dramatically in the River North area (from 9 p.m. to midnight). The free Sunday parking is expected to go into effect in late summer.

Supporters of the mayor's plan -- which will includes allowing drivers to pay for parking using their cell phones, for a $0.35 transaction fee, beginning in the summer of 2014 -- said the Council should not turn away from an opportunity to reduce the payout to CPM. As supporter Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) said according to NBC Chicago, "We are tripping over hundred dollar bills to pick up nickels. As a council we would be irresponsible not to do this."

Though the mayor's office has claimed the new deal will save the city money in the long term and make the unpopular contract "a little less bad for the next seven decades," analyses from the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Reader and others have suggested the math behind such a claim is fuzzy at best.

Last year, CPM enjoyed a $30 million surge in meter revenue. The company's 2012 revenue is an even bigger increase over the approximately $24 million the city made off the meters in 2008.

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