Still in the dark | Bleader

Friday, August 14, 2009

Still in the dark

Posted By on 08.14.09 at 02:26 PM

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It just keeps going.

The parking meter privatization agreement was consummated months ago—and the "rainy day fund" it created will already be empty by next year—but city officials still haven't produced uncensored documents showing just what happened when bids for the deal were opened last fall, even though aldermen officially requested them six weeks ago.


A few months back the Reader used a Freedom of Information request to get the city to share copies of the agendas for the bid opening sessions held last fall. The only problem was that most of the documents had been blacked out with a marker—see for yourself.

During a July 2 City Council hearing on the origins of the meter deal, alderman Scott Waguespack asked officials with the city and financial adviser William Blair & Company why the agendas we'd been provided had been so heavily censored. They said they didn't know. Tom Lanctot, a top official with William Blair, said Waguespack wasn't missing much. "I don't think you're going to find any anything nefarious," he said.

"I'm not saying there's anything nefarious," Waguespack shot back. "I'd just like to see the documents."

Lanctot and several city officials said that wouldn't be a problem.

Yet in a newsletter sent this week to constituents Waguespack said the city and William Blair hadn't made good on its promise. "No news yet on what happened in the room when 'Project Magee' was signed and delivered behind closed doors," he wrote. "The parking meter lease has continued to create more problems for businesses and residents alike. I would still like to know why important public documents are not being provided after we asked for a clean copy on July 2, and why they were blacked out."

Waguespack told me that he's drafting a letter to city budget officials letting them know that "now that the wheeling and dealing is done, there's no reason this should be kept secret, and I would like to see it."

He said he thinks it's critical to press for accountability and transparency in city business, even on seemingly minor matters like these lease documents. Both the Daley administration and taxpayers need to know that at least some aldermen are intent on performing their "fiduciary duty" while grappling with a ballooning budget deficit and questions about funding for the Olympics.

"I know it's piddling in a sense," he said. "But to me it's about the way business has been done here in the last 20 years and how it's going to be done in the future."

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