Man Who Worked On Parking Meter Deal Writes NYT Blog Praising Privatization

By Chuck Sudo in News on Jul 17, 2013 4:10PM

Photo credit: Moe Martinez

A post on The New York Times DealBook blog arguing in favor of cities embarking on privatization projects failed to mention the author works for a firm that was instrumental in drafting Chicago’s parking meter deal.

DealBook describes the author, Kent Rowley, as “a partner in the energy and infrastructure practice at Allen & Overy in New York.” What isn’t disclosed, according to Reuters’ MuniLand blog, was that Rowley “was the transaction attorney for the deals he is praising in the piece and using as examples for other cities to follow.” That's like having a child molester defend his decision to start an ice cream truck business.

That explains why Rowley calls the Chicago parking meter deal “one of the world’s best” in the July 15 post. According to Rowley, the privatization of the city’s parking meters “streamlin(ed) the costs of running the citywide program” and “exposed abuses of handicapped parking permits and led to the passage of a law preventing abuses.”

Of course, the city only received a lump sum payment for the deal, motorists have had to bear the burden of parking rate hikes in the years since, Chicago Parking Meters LLC has raked in record profits and we may not have even known about the handicapped parking permit abuses had CPM not billed the city for revenues lost because of them. (Although the Daley administration surely knew.)

Rowley’s post is nothing more than a naked advertorial for privatization and, as the Sun-Times’ Neil Steinberg noted, another example of The New York Times getting Chicago wrong.

To run this thickly-cloaked advertisement and self-promotion as any kind of journalism, particularly if it encourages imitation of the expensive civic folly that Chicago’s parking meter deal represents, is beyond irresponsible. The New York Times should be ashamed of itself. Of course, it should have been ashamed of itself already. It should be more ashamed.