Rahm's Parking Meter Deal Passes City Council
CITY HALL — A deal that re-establishes free parking on Sundays, but extends the evening hours of meter enforcement the rest of the week, passed the City Council on a 39-11 vote Wednesday.
The revised deal, pushed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, will save the city $20 million a year by settling so-called "true-up" costs for lost revenue due to street closures with the private company that operates the meters, Chicago Parking Meters.
Ald. Richard Mell (33rd) thanked Emanuel for "opening up the wound and cauterizing it" by making the infamous deal inked in 2008 a little better for the city.
Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) cheered the mayor for getting some concessions out of a pact most viewed as ironclad, saying, "You challenged them and made them come to the table and change this deal."
Yet others opposed even the revised deal.
"I never approved of this marriage, with Chicago Parking Meters, and I don't approve of it today," said Ald. Rey Colon (35th), one of five aldermen to vote against the original deal in 2008. "I have an issue with the extended hours," he added. "I'm questioning the unknown, which is what I did four years ago."
Like many aldermen, Colon cheered the "true-up" settlement as clearly beneficial to the city, but balked at the swap of free Sundays — which many aldermen resist in their business districts — for extended evening hours.
"I don't think this deal should've been bundled together like a U-Verse package," Colon said.
Colon mentioned how CPM executives Dennis Pedrelli, Mike Ginter, Jean Ratty Chidley and Rick Ingram declined a request to address the council in four Finance Committee meetings and compared them to the Unknown Comic, "The Gong Show" regular known for wearing a paper bag over his head.
The revision would extend all 9 p.m. meters until 10 p.m. citywide, and until midnight in Streeterville and River North, which is one reason it was opposed by Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd). Reilly said he had "some problems with the projections and the assumptions" and called it "a false choice" to say the settlement with CPM was a take-it-or-leave-it proposal.
The meters' enforcement starting time is not changing with the new deal. Parkers also will continue to have to pay to park Downtown on Sundays.
Aldermen William Burns (4th) and Patrick O'Connor (40th) said it was easy to take the position to vote against any and all meter deals, but the city had to seize on the chance to make the best of a bad situation.
"I'm hearing a lot of what I heard before," said Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th), who also voted against the original deal. "I find myself pretty much in the same place."
"I stand here as one of the guilty ones" who voted for it in 2008, said Ald. Joe Moore (49th). "I was wrong." He said voters continued to be riled by this issue, adding, "They're angry, they're cynical, they think we're being had again."
Emanuel has said he was trying to make "a little lemonade" out of a lemon of a deal, but Ald. Bob Fioretti (1st) commented, "Some lemons shouldn't be made into lemonade. Some lemons should be returned to the store for a refund."
Colon, Hairston and Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), who voted against the original deal, were joined this time by Aldermen Fioretti, Reilly, Michele Smith (43rd), Tom Tunney (44th), John Arena (45th), Ameya Pawar (47th), Harry Osterman (48th) and Debra Silverstein (50th) in voting against the revision.
Toni Preckwinkle and Billy Ocasio, who have since left the council, were the other two to vote against the original deal.
"I do believe this is behind us," Emanuel said in a news conference afterward. "It's still a bad deal."
It may not be as over as he'd like, however. Waguespack put out a tweet immediately after the vote saying, "Mayor Rahm now owns the parking-meter disaster."