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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Parking Meter II

Posted By on 04.26.12 at 06:45 AM

The parking-meter deal hasnt worked so well, has it?
  • Jerome Ludwig
  • The parking-meter deal hasn't worked out so well, has it?
Mayor Emanuel may be one of the smartest politicians in Chicago, but it looks like he's a little too smart for his own good with his infrastructure trust fund.

As far as I can tell, the purpose of the fund was to 1) win favorable publicity to make him look good for his upcoming presidential campaign and 2) find a source of contributions to fund said campaign from the fat cats feeding from the infrastructure fund.

But the fund’s been a PR nightmare. And since purpose 2 is almost meaningless without purpose 1, it's been a bomb.

So, Mr. Mayor, let me tell you how to get out of this jam you got yourself into.

As you recall, the fund's dedicated to the notion that Mayor Emanuel’s figured out a magical way to borrow billions of dollars to build things without really borrowing the money.

Think of it as free money. A concept that exists nowhere in the universe except the fantasies of our mayors.

Especially, the last one.

This time around, no one was buying the whole free-money thing—largely because it bombed the last time it was trotted out.

That was back in 2008 when Mayor Daley coerced the City Council to approve his parking-meter deal.

In that one, the city agreed to take $1 billion up front and then jack up parking meter rates and turn the parking-meter money over to a consortium of investors who don't give a shit about Chicago or, at the very least, are not accountable to anyone in town.

At first, most everyone hailed the deal, except a motley crew consisting of me, Mick Dumke, Alderman Scott Waguespack, and a few other nobodies.

Then people started feeding all those extra quarters into all those meters and that's when it hit them. Not only were they paying more than ever to park, but none of that extra parking-meter money was going to schools, parks, libraries, or anything else they use. Instead, it was going to that aforementioned consortium who doesn’t give that aforementioned shit about anyone in Chicago.

In short, they'd allowed themselves to get hoodwinked into thinking they were getting something for nothing.

Fast-forward almost four years . . .

And here comes Mayor Emanuel, like a hyped-up used-car salesman, telling one and all he's got this Infrastructure
Fund thing that’s gonna pay for billions of dollars worth of bridges, parks, and buildings without costing us a thing.

Only this time the public’s not buying it. The Tribune, the Sun-Times, and Crain's all came out against the fund—as did the Better Government Association. Seven aldermen even voted against it in committee.

A wise mayor might have quietly pulled the proposal, saying some face-saving thing like—it needs more study.

But, no, as we're starting to learn, our mayor hates to lose. Instead, he twisted the arms of 41 aldermen into adopting the fund.

Now several of those aldermen are up against the wall. Every day brings a new explanation from one or the other—so far I've seen them from Aldermen Ameya Pawar and James Cappleman and Joe Moore and Joe Moreno. I'm sure Alderman Rey Colon's will soon follow.

In each case, the message boils down to this: This is not the parking-meter deal. Repeat: Not parking-meter deal!

Even though everyone knows that sooner or later the mayor's going to have to tell us what he’s going to give in return for the money he needs for whatever he wants to build.

And that means that something will be paid—either a fine, a fee, or taxes—by us, the public. Because you can't get something for nothing, as we all learned the hard way with the parking-meter deal.

You know, I'd have more respect for Pawar, Moore, Cappleman, et al if they just came out and said: I only voted for this travesty because I didn't want the mayor cursing at me. Like he curses at anybody who doesn't give him what he wants.

So here's my advice, Mayor Rahm—only this time, don't half take it, like you did with the longer school day.

Now that you got the council to pass the fund, don't use it.

If you want to rebuild Chicago, just do it the old-fashioned way. Borrow the money and pay it back at the prevailing rates.

And let's just pretend this whole thing never happened.

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