RIVER NORTH — Like it or leave it.
That was Mayor Rahm Emanuel's response Wednesday to questions about whether the proposed changes to the infamous parking-meter privatization contract are the best deal the city can get.
"I want to repeat, this deal was a bad deal, and there's nothing you can do to make a bad deal a good deal," Emanuel said.
Emanuel announced Monday the city and the private company, Chicago Parking Meters LLC, had agreed to certain changes to the 75-year contract.
Under the reworked deal, drivers would be able to park for free on Sundays beginning late this summer in neighborhoods outside a "greater downtown" area bordered by North Avenue, Roosevelt Road, Halsted Street and the Lake Michigan.
But in River North, meters would run an extra three hours, until midnight, and meters elsewhere in the city would have to be fed an additional hour, until 10 p.m.
Speaking at an unrelated press conference in River North, Emanuel said he disagreed with the "characterization" that the new deal would be a windfall for CPM, opting instead to call it a "trade."
And Emanuel again touted the positives of the proposed changes.
"Eighty-one percent of the meters in the city will be free on Sunday," Emanuel said, rattling off 36 city neighborhoods expected to benefit from the change.
Emanuel also highlighted a new pay-by-cell phone option as well as what city officials said will be roughly $1 billion in savings over the life of the contract when it comes to paying bills to CPM for lost revenue due to street closures.
City officials have said they expect the trade-off of extended hours for free Sunday parking to be a net benefit for Chicagoans, but some aldermen have criticized the changes saying they unfairly affect certain residents.
Emanuel said he will make the new deal public next week so aldermen have ample time to examine the terms before voting on it.
Emanuel said he wants the public to scrutinize the changes.
"I want the City Council to debate this. I want them to go through it," he said.
But the mayor maintained the city only has two choices.
"The question is: do we want as a city to take what we have today and live with that for 71 years or, as I view, free Sundays, eliminate $1 billion the taxpayers would have to fork over and also get the convenience of paying by cell phone?" Emanuel said.
When asked why not put the city's effort into challenging the contract in court, Emanuel said the city has already spent the money it got in the deal and said an option like issuing bonds to give the money back is not possible.
"Nobody's walking around giving a billion dollars away or billions of dollars away for free," Emanuel said.