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Outrage! Aldermen Hold Hearing On Meter Deal

By Marcus Gilmer in News on Jul 3, 2009 4:00PM

2009_06_26_city.jpg Seven months after they approved Mayor Daley's parking meter privatization deal, the City Council held a hearing to angrily express their outrage over the deal. This from the same City Council that voted 45-5 to approve the deal and, when one alderman complained about the lack of time for review, prompted the classic response from Ald. Mell (33rd), "How many of us read the stuff we do get, OK?. I try to. I try to. I try to. But being realistic, being realistic, it's like getting your insurance policy. It's small print, OK?" Small print, indeed.

The Council explored rolling back some of the parking hikes in the wake of a parking rebellion of sorts, mainly in the form of motorists referring to park. According to the Sun-Times, Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) said:

"Utilization has fallen through the floor. We have nobody using these meters. It is not working. If you're going down Belmont, no one's parking on the street. If we don't get utilization up, our districts are gonna suffer on retail sales. It will have a damaging effect on meter retail communities, which is the lifeblood of our neighborhoods. We have to get this right. We get zero utilization. How do we bring everyone back to the table and say, 'We've got to restructure this deal?'"

Deputy Corporation Counsel Jim McDonald admitted that yes, the Council has the right to set parking meter rates but if the Council decides to roll it back, Chicago Parking Meters LLC would have to be compensated for the change.

In the "It Happened To Me!" portion of the proceedings, Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) ranted about a mix-up at a parking meter box that wound up with her shilling out $32.50 for overnight parking instead of her desired time frame.

She said while attending a dinner on Wacker Drive near the Sears Tower recently, she pressed the "max" button on a new pay-box parking meter, and was charged $32.50.

Chicago Parking Meters LLC Chief Executive Officer Dennis Pedrelli said this happened because Hairston parked on the street around 7 p.m., at which time the meter is programmed to charge for parking overnight, through 10 a.m. the next morning.

But Hairston complained that there is no indication that pushing the "max" button will result in a bill for overnight parking.

"You have to communicate, and you can't be deceiving the public," Hairston said.

Not a whole helluva lot was decided, though, as the hearing ended. As always, we'd like to remind you of the five alderman who actually had the cajones to vote against the deal: Toni Preckwinkle (4th), Leslie Hairston (5th), Billy Ocasio (26th), Scott Waguespack (32nd) and Rey Colon (35th). Check out the Trib's recap and, as always, The Reader's Mick Dumke has a solid round-up.