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Defending The Parking Meter Rates

By Marcus Gilmer in News on Dec 31, 2009 3:20PM

Photo by swanksalot
The day before another hike in the city's parking rates goes into effect and a day after we looked back on the year that was in the Parking Meter Lease Saga, both the City and the company in charge of the meters have gone on the defensive. The new rates technically begin tomorrow, but technicians won't start phasing the new rates into the meters until Monday and it'll take most of the month of January to get the new rates locked in at all meters around the city. And as the new rates roll out and a new round of complaints get set to roll in, the defense begins.

Budget office spokesman Pete Scales defended the financial aspect of the lease, telling the Tribune, "It protected taxpayers by providing $1.2 billion and has allowed the city to continue providing critical services to residents that would otherwise have been cut, or even preserved by substantially raising taxes. As Mayor Daley has said, he would not increase taxes or cut critical services during this economic recession." Well, that's all well and good, but what about the fact that the city's then-Inspector General David Hoffman issued a report saying the City could have gotten almost twice as much for the deal? Or that Mayor Daley has already taken out 70 percent of the $400 million that he socked away from the deal to cover holes in the city's budget (saying he'd pay it back later once economic times are better)?

As for the technological hiccups the meters have experienced, the company in charge of the meters defends the action but one alderman who has opposed the deal from the start isn't having any of it.

Avis LaVelle, a spokeswoman for Chicago Parking Meters LLC, touted technological advances such as the ability to use credit cards at the pay boxes in defending the higher costs to drivers.

"It's a greatly enhanced system that offers motorists many more conveniences than before," LaVelle said.

Ald. Scott Waguespack, 32nd, one of five aldermen to vote against the meter lease in December 2008, called the argument that Chicagoans have benefited with better parking meter technology because of the lease laughable.

"The technology has been there. The city should have been doing those upgrades," he said. "They treat these pay boxes like they're manna from heaven, and they're not."

Truth. But, still, it looks like this isn't an issue that'll be going away any time soon: 2010 starts year two of the 75-year lease.