Along with blustery winters and corrupt politics, the City of Chicago can now add to its reputation the highest parking rates in the country. As mayor, I may not be able to raise the temperature, but I will certainly raise our faith in elected officials. I will change both the parking and the politics in our city.
Outgoing Mayor Richard M. Daley signed the 75-year, $1.16 billion agreement in December 2008 in what has become a very real reminder for Chicagoans of misguided government.
On January 1, 2011, parking rates in downtown Chicago's Loop rose to $5 per hour, and neighborhood rates climbed to $1.50 per hour. In 2012 and again in 2013, rates across the city will rise between 25 and 75 cents.
As mayor, I will instruct the city's lawyers to not fight an existing lawsuit to invalidate the meter contract, and will an bring additional suit against Chicago Parking Meters, LLC, the Morgan Stanley-owned private company that bought the meters. Independent Voters of Illinois Independent Precinct Organization (IVI-IPO) and Aviva Pratt filed the original suit.
IVI-IPO Chair Alonso Zaragoza and civil rights and class action attorney Marni Willenson joined me at a press conference on December 31 to declare the contract a violation of Illinois' constitution.
The parking meter contract marks the second deal in the last five years between the city and Morgan Stanley. The investment firm closed a deal worth $563 billion for the city's parking garages.
Mayor Daley argued that the deal would stave off a growing city deficit and pushed it through the City Council. The Chicago Sun-Times reported that, after less than two years of the 75-year lease, only $180 million remained for the city. Chicago Parking Meters, LLC, however, will continue to earn money from the deal. In 2010, the company took in more than $73 million, according to Standard & Poor's. Before the contract, the city earned roughly $20 million from its meters.
The fact that a private firm is making a larger profit than the city ever made from its meters points to a glaring problem with this agreement. Both private investors and Chicago families ought to benefit from a city contract.
I say no to bad deals like this one. I say no to deals made without the interests of all Chicagoans in mind.
I reject, furthermore, the politics that produced this deal: a political apparatus more interested in preserving power than in rigorous debate of the issues.
The existing contract requires that the city compensate Chicago Parking Meters, LLC any time it removes parking meters when, for example, it creates bus and bicycle lanes. This provision deters a city in financial crisis from addressing long-term issues of public health and safety. We cannot continue to become a green, livable, vibrant, urban environment under these conditions. The City of Chicago, by controlling its own streets, can solve problems of public transportation, air pollution, and automobile congestion.
I am the progressive candidate. I want to turn the city that works into the city that works together. As mayor, I will do everything in my power to take back our streets.