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City Says It's Being Overbilled With Chicago Parking Meter Tab

By Chuck Sudo in News on Dec 3, 2012 8:15PM

"Curse you, parking meter!" (Photo Credit: Rolour Garcia)

The tab the city owes Chicago Parking Meters LLC now stands at $61 million and remains a bomb that can blow up Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposed 2013 budget. The Sun-Times reports that Chicago Parking Meters may be trying to soak the city for more than it actually owes.

City officials poring over the bills claim they’ve found $22 million in billing errors, and independent arbitrators are meeting with both sides to figure out how much the city actually owes CPM. It’s not as though Chicago Parking Meters needs the money; they’ve collected over $200 million in revenue since the 75-year deal hammered through by former Mayor Richard M. Daley went into effect in 2008. Parking rates in the Loop are set to increase further in January to $6.50 from the current $5.75, which will be another shock to people who choose to drive instead of take CTA.

The central issue in the dispute over how much the city owes CPM is who should be doing the calculations. The Emanuel administration's position on this is the city should be determining how much is owed for the unused meters. Yet according to the Reader’s Mick Dumke, the city is backing CPM in a 2009 lawsuit filed on behalf of the public interest group IVI-IPO that the parking meter deal illegally privatizes the government’s ability to set parking and traffic policy. In short: The city is arguing in favor of the deal in court even as Emanuel says publicly he’s looking for ways to keep the bills down.

Judge Richard J. Billik Jr. ruled in favor of CPM and the city, citing the $1.2 billion paid to the city up front as part of the deal and claiming citizens weren’t harmed by it. Never mind parking rates in the Loop will more than double what they were in 2008 in a month.