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Inspector General David Hoffman was roughly halfway through his press conference criticizing the parking meter deal when reporters started getting the word over their cell phones: Paul Volpe, Mayor Daley’s chief of staff, was going to hold a rebuttal press conference within minutes.

Talk about rapid response–if only Mayor Daley ran the CTA as efficiently as he goes after his critics.

Actually, I’m not sure why the mayor was so upset. For the most part, Hoffman was rather measured in his comments. He made no sweeping accusations of fraud or negligence — even though reporters gave him plenty of opportunity with their questions. He refused to speculate as to why the mayor rammed the deal through the City Council so quickly. He even allowed for the possibility that it was a deal worth approving. I mean, he was like the Rubberband Man, the way he bent over backward to be fair.

Hoffman’s presser was in the fourth-floor conference room of the city building at 740 N. Sedgwick; as soon as he finished, we all packed up our stuff and schlepped upstairs to the fifth floor for Volpe’s.

Volpe was supposed to appear at 2:45. But he didn’t show up until 3:18. Hey, what’s the fun of being the mayor’s right-hand man if you can’t make reporters sit around?

But let me tell you, it was worth the wait. What a performance! Volpe deserved a standing ovation when it was over, and it was all I could do not to stand up and cheer. He kind of reminded me of Jimmy Cagney, with his spunky, pugnacious defense of his man (the mayor) and their parking-meter deal. Lips quivering, voice occasionally cracking, he expressed outrage bordering on disgust that Hoffman–or anyone for that matter–could even remotely suggest that things didn’t work as well as they should in Chicago.

As for defending the deal, it’s pretty clear that the mayor’s central argument is that $1 billion in the bank today is worth more than anything 75 years down the road. He and his aides may need a new one–fewer and fewer people seem to be buying that line.

Volpe went on to make a big deal about all of the seniors who wouldn’t be getting meals on wheels if we hadn’t sold off the meters. And he clearly wanted us to think that without the parking meter loot Mayor Daley would have to pink-slip a bunch of cops and fire fighters or at least raise taxes–never mind the big-time user fee that quadrupling meter rates represents.

My absolute favorite part of Volpe’s performance came when he took a moment to defend the integrity of his friends in the City Council, who, as you may recall, agreed to sell the meters after less than two days of debate over sketchy information. How dare anyone suggest that a legislative body so august as the Chicago City Council could be Mayor Daley’s rubber stamp! “It’s impossible for us to force the City Council on any matter,” he said.

Like I told you, it was a great performance. He even managed that last line with a straight face.