We know it’ll cost more to park on major city streets, and lots of minor ones as well. What’s not certain is whether the parking meter lease deal is good one for taxpayers. The mayor and his administration argue that it is; next the city council will have the chance to weigh in. But the whole billion-dollar agreement could be wrapped up as soon as Thursday morning–just three days after city officials first viewed the bids on it. Here’s the timeline of the deal:
Friday, February 8, 2008: The city issues an RFQ inviting firms to bid on leasing the meters. Chief financial officer Paul Volpe says it’s a way “to be innovative in our approach to managing city assets.” Final bids are due December 1.
February-March: City officials review initial application information submitted by potential bidders to determine whether the firms are qualified. The city won’t say how many bidders were rejected, how many were accepted, or how many were involved altogether; that won’t be released until the deal is approved and underway.
Thursday, August 14: Volpe announces that the city faces a $420 million budget deficit. The figure grows to nearly $500 million in the coming weeks as revenues from real estate transfer taxes dry up.
Wednesday, October 15: Mayor Daley releases his 2009 budget, which he hopes will be balanced, despite the city’s “financial challenges,” with hundreds of layoffs, service reductions, cash from the Midway deal, and an anticipated $150 million infusion from a parking meter lease deal.
Wednesday, November 19: The City Council approves the administration’s budget, with some line-item changes, by a 49-1 vote.
Monday, December 1: It’s the due date for the lease bids, and even though city officials are supposed to be looking at them all for the first time, they move quickly to establish that a deal’s in place. “We open the envelopes and the winning bidder is the highest bidder,” budget department spokeswoman Lisa Schrader explained later. Of course, the City Council needs to sign off before any agreement goes into effect. Early in the work day–at 8:34 a.m.–a staffer for 14th Ward alderman Ed Burke, chairman of the City Council’s Committee on Finance, submits an agenda [PDF] to the city clerk’s office for the committee’s December 3 meeting. It has one item on it: consideration of the parking meter lease deal. At 3:03 p.m. the clerk’s office receives a letter [PDF] from Mayor Daley calling a full meeting of the council for December 4 “for the sole purpose” of taking up the lease deal. Also that afternoon officials begin leaking news of the deal to City Hall reporters and Mayor Daley calls a press conference for the next morning to provide details.
Tuesday, December 2: Daley, Volpe, and other city officials announce a spinoff of Morgan Stanley, which in 2006 leased the city’s downtown parking garages, will pay the city $1.15 billion in return for 75-year control of the parking meters. Rates will start going up in 2009 and may climb to more than $6 an hour within five years.
Wednesday, December 3: The Finance Committee will meet at 10 a.m. If precedent is any indication, aldermen will have questions but the deal will be approved.
Thursday, December 4: The full council will meet to consider the lease deal. Same deal with precedent. Some aldermen will probably wonder, as they have before, if the city will find anything to lease in 2009, given that Daley has predicted $200 million deficits for each of the next several years.