Mayor Daley hates drivers.
He has to. There's no other way to explain it.
Or perhaps it's just that car drivers are easy to pick on.
Whatever it is, Mayor Daley has body slammed the Chicago driver this year.
The final body blow that left Chicago drivers unconscious, bloody and drooling on the canvas mat of 2008, came Tuesday when the mayor announced the $1.16 billion dollar deal to privatize Chicago's parking meter system.
The city has been like a fish out of water from a budget standpoint, flopping around on the bottom of the boat gasping for precious air, or in Chicago's case--hard cold cash.
Luckily for Mayor Daley, Chicago Parking Meter LLC's billion and change saved the day.
But this billion dollar bailout comes at a price. A price paid by drivers.
It's no surprise that parking meter rates were going to go up with this deal. But the rate of increase is like electro-shocking an infant. Initially, most meters (the ones that charge 25 cents per hour) are going to quadruple within 12 months. In five years time, parking meters will be charging drivers anywhere from $2.00 to $6.50 per hour depending on your location.
These rate increases will again, most profoundly affect the people who can least afford them--the poor and lower middle class. People with money can always take a taxi, or afford valet parking or a parking garage. While public transportation can be a low cost alternative, many people need a car for work or to transport children.
These increases will also have an adverse effect on the local economy. Low cost parking meters was a great incentive for people living outside the city to come, visit and spend their money at Chicago businesses. Much like the 10% sales tax, consumers will go elsewhere to spend their cash.
But these increased rates will also discourage city denizens to shop outside their primary neighborhoods. Why drive to that cool new restaurant or boutique when it costs so much to park and you chance a parking ticket every time you drive?
The increased enforcement that is inevitable with this deal will also discourage car travel and thus local spending.
But when you take this parking meter deal, and look back at what else the mayor has done to kick drivers in the ribs in 2008, it's jaw dropping.
*Lowered the Denver boot threshold from three to a paltry two unpaid tickets.
*An additional 22% premium tacked onto unpaid parking tickets to cover the alleged cost of collections.
*Installing over 50 red light cameras in 2008, with at least another 50 for 2009, 2010 and 2011 reaching a goal of having red light cameras at a minimum of 10% of all city intersections.
*Initiating a plan to install cameras on all city street sweepers to nail drivers parked in violation of street cleaning bans.
*General increases to the cost of parking ticket fines.
*Increased parking enforcement and the planned hiring of 50 new parking enforcement aides.
*Increase in parking garage taxes.
*Converting all 4,000 park district free parking spaces into metered spaces.
*Adding 1,250 new metered parking spaces to the near west side.
When you look at all these policy changes implemented by Mayor Daley over the past 12 months, you can see that Chicago is the most anti-driver city in the entire U.S.
The truth of the matter is that Mayor Daley and his administration have mismanaged the budget and allowed spending to get disastrously out of control.
To be fair, some cuts were made. But instead of making a sincere effort to control spending, the mayor decided to balance the 2009 city budget on the aching backs of drivers.
In my humble Parking Geek opinion, the Mayor has unfairly targeted and overburdened the Chicago driver.
I truly hope Mayor Daley finds someone else to pick on in 2009. Because we won't be able to bear any more.