CITY HALL — The mayor brings free Sunday parking to the neighborhoods this weekend, but aldermen who wanted to retain Sunday meters feel they've been subjected to a roadblock.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel won free Sunday parking in the neighborhoods outside downtown as part of a swap negotiated with Chicago Parking Meters and passed by the City Council earlier this month. Drivers got free Sundays in areas south of Roosevelt Road, north of North Avenue and west of Halsted Street in exchange for an additional evening hour of metered parking other days, along with meters that run to midnight in Streeterville and River North.
The Mayor's Office issued a statement Thursday saying free Sunday parking would go into effect in all those designated areas this weekend, ahead of the July 1 deadline. Free Sunday parking began to be phased in in some areas earlier this month.
"This weekend of summer in Chicago will be filled with Blackhawks victory parades, the Pride parade, baseball games, barbecues and free parking on Sunday,” Emanuel said in a statement. “I am pleased that CPM was able to move quickly and make sure that this needed break from the awful parking-meter deal came even earlier than expected."
Yet it only breeds confusion for aldermen who wanted to retain metered parking in business districts in order to spur parking-space turnover.
According to City Hall sources, several aldermen tried to confront the issue at this week's City Council meeting ahead of implementation, but were thwarted by the Emanuel administration.
Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) said he was joined by Aldermen Michele Smith (43rd), Tom Tunney (44th) and John Arena (45th) in trying to have meters maintained on Sunday in their business districts before the implementation of free Sunday parking, but were denied.
"They basically told us they're not going to let it go through," Waguespack said. Instead, they received an email from Chief Financial Officer Lois Scott and Corporation Counsel Stephen Patton laying out a complicated process for designating areas where metered parking could be retained.
When the administration was seeking council support for the new deal with CPM, Patton insisted the administration would be amenable to retaining meters on Sundays in business districts and would even offer political cover by introducing the amendments.
"Now they're all throwing it back at us," Waguespack said. "They're making it very difficult. They're gonna get to decide what's free and what's not."
Waguespack pointed out that it would only sew confusion to declare free Sunday parking this weekend only to pull it back in certain areas down the road.
Meanwhile, in Tunney's Lakeview neighborhood, the Cubs are out of town this weekend, but have a Sunday day game scheduled July 7, and the conflict is unlikely to be settled before that. So it could mean free parking for Cub fans, but that would mean Wrigleyville businesses would see spaces tied up throughout Sunday afternoon — at very least in the short term.