Inspector general: Parking meter lease was a financial fiasco
In December, the City Council gave a quickie 40-5 nod to Mayor Daley's $1.15 billion, 75-year handoff of the city's parking meters to a private company. The takeover was an admitted failure logistically, and today's report from the office of inspector general David Hoffman [peruse the entire document here] confirms what some suspected all along: that the deal was also a complete financial boondoggle. The meters were worth nearly twice as much, the report states, if the city had retained ownership for the next 75 years.
Shamed aldermen should be wiping the egg off their blushing faces for quite some time after letting this Daley doozy slide by unexamined. Unfortunately I don't see that happening in a city where many members of the hands-off Council vote with the mayor an anomalous 95 percent of the time.
And now comes the predictable period of belated inquiry from the Council. In an e-newsletter that came this afternoon, 49th Ward Ald. Joe Moore (who voted in favor of the parking meter lease) states, "This report is a painful but necessary must-read for every member of the City Council. It is long past the time for the Council to begin acting as the co-equal branch of city government that it was intended to be.... The Mayor, his administration and the public at large would benefit from a more active and engaged City Council."
As good-intentioned as Moore's message is (and, to his credit, he has recently supported expanding the powers of the inspector general), his honesty is baffling; he describes the most basic function for which we elect aldermen (to serve as a check against mayoral power) then admits that the Council isn't performing its cardinal duty. Kudos to Moore for fessing up to the Council's failure and pledging support for "an ordinance to create a new review process for future sales or long-term leases of city assets." Let's just hope our aldermen see passing that ordinance not as a face-saving crisis PR stunt but rather as the the beginning of the end of the Council's vote-first-ask-questions-later protocol.