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Rahm's Parking-Meter Deal Passes Committee, but Foes Vow Fight in Council

By Ted Cox | June 3, 2013 11:34am | Updated on June 3, 2013 4:34pm
 Attorney Clint Krislov (right), with Ald. Edward Burke in the foreground, told aldermen that, if they backed the amended meter deal, "You will be viewed as voting for the parking agreement."
Attorney Clint Krislov (right), with Ald. Edward Burke in the foreground, told aldermen that, if they backed the amended meter deal, "You will be viewed as voting for the parking agreement."
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

CITY HALL — The mayor's proposed adjustment to the infamous parking-meter deal passed the Finance Committee Monday, but those opposed said the battle isn't over.

The revised deal was approved on a 15-6 vote, but opponents vowed to lobby against it ahead of Wednesday's City Council meeting, when it's now scheduled to come up for a final vote.

The Emanuel administration maintains the revised deal would erase $20 million a year from "true-ups" resulting from lost meter revenue in street closures, a proposal endorsed by most if not all aldermen. Yet it would also swap free parking in neighborhood wards on Sundays for extended evening hours citywide other days, a trade aldermen were much less enthusiastic about, although only a handful voted against the overall package.

 Ald. Brendan Reilly said he'd rallly opposition to the new meter deal ahead of Wednesday's City Council meeting.
Ald. Brendan Reilly said he'd rallly opposition to the new meter deal ahead of Wednesday's City Council meeting.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

"We've been bitten once," said Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), pointing to the reviled original parking-meter deal passed in 2008. He expressed doubt about low estimates made for how much money would be gained by Chicago Parking Meters in extended evening hours — going to 10 p.m. for all meters currently running to 9 p.m., and to midnight in his River North and Streeterville neighborhoods. "The scene gets going around 10, 10:30," he said, predicting a "tremendous spike" in late-evening meter use in those areas.

Reilly led opposition. Also voting against the deal were Aldermen Pat Dowell (3rd), Willie Cochran (20th), Scott Waguespack (32nd), Harry Osterman (48th) and Rey Colon (35th).

"The vast majority of the people leaning no don't serve on the Finance Committee," Reilly said. "So I wouldn't say today's committee vote was an accurate sample.

"We're gonna spend the next 36 hours talking to our colleagues, trying to persuade them to hold out for a better settlement deal," he added. "Here's where the hard work begins."

Earlier, a lawyer fighting the original parking-meter deal in court said the City Council would only be endorsing that deal by approving the adjustment negotiated by the Emanuel administration.

"You will be viewed as voting for the parking agreement," said Clint Krislov, who is fighting the original meter deal in court on behalf of the Independent Voters of Illinois Independent Precinct Organization. He attacked the new pact negotiated by the Emanuel administration for "defending and entrenching this deal."

Krislov's suit was thrown out by a Cook County Circuit Court judge, but the IVI-IPO has already filed its intent to appeal. Krislov said the Cook County judge would have been receptive to the argument to toss out the original parking-meter deal if the city had sided with it.

Krislov said the new deal proposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel would only weaken any chance to fight the original meter deal, adding, "It diminishes the strength of our argument."

Corporation Counsel Stephen Patton called it a "disservice" to "confuse" the new parking-meter deal with the original and said it was "tremendously risky" to reject the settlement the city reached with CPM.

The new deal was defended at length by David Moes, managing director at Navigant Consulting, a Chicago-based accounting firm hired by the administration to provide an independent overview. "The city has been conservative in its estimates, estimated savings to the city," Moes said. "The savings claimed by the city are real and accurate."

"Some of us here get a little skeptical," Reilly said. "We've heard that before four years ago."

Working from the same data city officials had access to, Navigant valued Sunday parking at $8.7 million, up from the city's $8.5 million estimate. Navigant echoed the city in valuing extended evening hours at $7.4 million. Yet Navigant valued the other tradeoff in the deal — the city taking back surface lots in exchange for meters added citywide since the original deal was approved — as a wash, where the city had that as a $1 million net loss.

In short, where Chief Financial Officer Lois Scott said the official new deal would net $100,000 a year to the city, Navigant estimated a $1.3 million benefit to the city.

Moes said the true-up settlement was "necessary and critical," but added that the other parts of the new deal also offered "very clear benefits to the city and its residents." He allowed, however, that extended-evening estimates were projections not based on any actual traffic studies in River North or Streeterville.

Aldermen Ariel Reboyras (30th) and Patrick O'Connor (40th), Emanuel's floor leader, both expressed gratitude to Navigant for its estimates and the independent oversight. Yet Reilly questioned the process of how the firm had been selected by the Emanuel administration, and Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) pointed out the $250,000 the city spent on the quick-turnaround study, executed over 10 days, would pay the entire annual cost of the Independent Budget Office he has proposed, but which has yet to gain the mayor's support.

Also to be worked out, if the measures passes the full council Wednesday, is whether some commercial neighborhoods will decline free Sunday parking in order to spur parking-space turnover. Maureen Martino, executive director of the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce, cited Mayor Emanuel's remark that he was trying to make "a little bit of lemonade" out of a lemon of a deal, but Martino added, "This is really sour, sour for the business."

The administration has said it will work with aldermen to retain metered Sunday parking in their wards where desired, and even offer political cover by sponsoring such amendments itself.

Yet Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) said it would create confusion for free Sundays to take effect July 1, only to pull them back later and only in some areas of the city. "It's really poor urban planning when you don't stick to one version of what you're gonna do, when you do things piecemeal," Waguespack said.

Waguespack also pointed to how the administration sent out maps showing meter locations, but using the old ward maps many aldermen and city departments have already abandoned for the new remap, which only adds to the chaos and confusion.

He submitted a substitute ordinance Monday seeking to divide the "true-up" part of the deal — which has wide support — from the parking swap. Patton called that "tremendously risky" and said that it would jeopardize the negotiated compromise.

Waguespack's amended ordinance failed to be considered by a 14-5 vote in the Finance Committee.