We’ve received loads of letters, calls, e-mails, and online comments in reaction to the recent story by Mick Dumke and me detailing how the city cut corners and kept key information from the public as it rushed to lease its 36,000 parking meters to a private company (“FAIL: How Daley and his crew hid their process from the public, ignored their own rules, railroaded the City Council, and screwed the taxpayers,” April 9). Some residents are angry that they have to pay more for worse service; others are simply outraged by the shocking revelation that they live in the realm of a viceroy.
Interest in the story is so high I thought I’d use this space to respond to some of the more provocative questions and comments that have come our way.
Thank you for the excellent article. Any suggestions on what Jane Average Citizen can do? —Carrie
Well, another reader, Heather, tells us “a dab of superglue in the slot does wonders.” But I’ve got a different and even more simple solution: next time you have the chance, vote for somebody else for mayor—as I suggested in 2007. In the meantime, call your alderman and give him (or her) hell. For a handy guide to the City Council, along with contact info for each alderman, go to the Reader‘s Web site and click on http://www.chicagoreader.com/features/stories/citycouncil/.
Interesting article, but it does NOT explain how this deal screwed taxpayers, it just assumes everyone already knows that! —D. McQuown
As we mentioned in the story, the city would probably have brought in more money over the 75 years of the deal had it simply held on to the meters. So by the logic employed by Mayor Daley—when he rushed this through the City Council in two days—it was somehow a wonderful deal to get rid of them.
More important, the taxpayers were excluded from the steps that got the deal made, both through the suppression of information and through the co-opting of the City Council.
Great article, but your report comes so late that you might as well have been on the payroll. Where have all the reporters been? What the hell do you think you’ve been doing? Grow some gonads, and prioritize for once. This punch was telegraphed far in advance, and now you’ve decided it’s news? Now that no one can do anything anymore. —Andrew
As our wise ex-governor Rod Blagojevich put it, it does take some “testicular virility” to wade into Chicago politics. Or, in the words of illustrious county commissioner William Beavers, to be the “hog with big nuts.” In our case, the Reader has been covering Mayor Daley’s privatization schemes since he pawned off the downtown parking garages in 2006.
It’s true that the meter contract is a done deal, but what isn’t is how much we’ll let our elected officials get away with from here on out. Even if they can’t or won’t do anything to fix what’s broken this time around, we hope everyone will pay a little more attention the next time the mayor talks about selling off a city asset.
Ben Jarovsky for MAYOR! You’ve got my vote, and my financial support. —Political Consultant
I also support Ben Jarovsky for mayor. Also Ben Jaworski and Ben Javorsky. They’d all make a better choice than Ben Joravsky would. This city needs better management, and that guy couldn’t manage a Little League team without losing his mind.
Without a doubt, Chicago is the most crooked city on the face of the earth. Every day I look forward to reading about more shady dealings, more public officials caught taking bribes or funneling contracts to buddies, or city contracts being passed without any due process. The Chicago machine is a joke without a punchline. —J. Gonzalez
You’re right. And just think: all that funny stuff only costs a few billion dollars a year in taxes.
This town will vote for any crook as long as he’s a Democrat (see Todd Stroger, Daley, Blago). —Gmann
I think you’re being a little unfair. We also vote for corrupt Republicans (see George Ryan).
Can’t read parking meters with spray paint on them. —Redthreat
Too bad we can’t just spray-paint our property tax bills.
I’ve frankly given up on the city I was born and raised in. Electing new officials to replace the corrupt ones we have is not the answer because you can’t trust anyone in Illinois politics. —David
That’s right. It’s better to elect the thieves, crackpots, and hacks we know than the ones we don’t.
The details of the parking meter lease will be Daley’s blizzard of ’79. No doubt, he’ll blame it on the aldermen for not reading the terms closely enough. —Redd
If the past is any indication, Mayor Daley will also blame the feds, the state, Cook County assessor Jim Houlihan, ComEd, the unions, Alderman Joe Moore, people on the Gold Coast who purportedly don’t like minority children, city workers, public housing residents who use too much water, and the tough winter weather.
Oh my God, Chicago is the worst city in the world! NO OLYMPICS! NO METERS! NO DALEY! GET RID OF THOSE NEW PAVILIONS IN MILLENNIUM PARK! NOTHING SHOULD CHANGE! EVERYTHING NEEDS TO CHANGE! Let’s all move to New York. I’m sure the government is fine there. —Kevin
Nothing should change; everything should change. Wasn’t that the mayor’s campaign slogan in 2007?
What would be great is if some normal, smart person would run against Daley. Not an alderman or a typical politician but someone who is smart and with a good sense of morals—would that be asking too much? —Robbie
Yes, unless you take Kevin’s advice and look for that person in New York.
I heard Daley on the radio say, “You have to monetize your assets or else they become liabilities.” What an idiot. Never took an economics or accounting class at the U. of C., that’s for sure. Vote the idiot out. —South Looper
Now, now, don’t harsh on Mayor Daley. He didn’t have time for economics or accounting—he was too busy studying for that bar exam for the third time.
What a load of populist claptrap. What, exactly, do the bailout funds, the pay issues with the CEO of Morgan Stanley, etc., have to do with anything? —TftinChi
Oh, I don’t know—maybe the $10 billion loan in federal bailout money intended to stimulate the economy that Morgan Stanley took right before it came up with more than a billion dollars to lease our parking meters, which won’t stimulate anything except Morgan Stanley’s profits. So essentially they’ll pay back some of the federal loan with money they get from raising our parking rates. When you think about it, Chicago taxpayers sure are generous to Morgan Stanley. We give them our federal tax dollars and our quarters. Maybe they’ll let us ride on their corporate jet.
Unless the feds can find [Daley] guilty of something, there are only two choices: move or stop complaining. —Gski
Whatever happened to “Throw the bum out”?
The only way to save Chicago government is to have total anarchy. —Dannimon
Quick, tell Gski that he has a third option.
The quote from Alderman Mell where he admits they approve deals without reading the fine print is a good summary of the whole state of our City Council. —Matt Jones
Agreed. In fact, let’s see those priceless remarks again: “How many of us read the stuff we do get, OK? I try to. I try to. I try to. But being realistic, being realistic, it’s like getting your insurance policy. It’s small print, OK?” That’s your guy, Albany Park.
The council did not see the dollars [analysis] before the vote? And they voted anyway? —Len
Didn’t you read what Alderman Mell said?
Only a few aldermen stood up against a corrupt backroom deal. The rest just enjoy the money. —Eric
That’s not fair to the aldermen. After all, it’s not like they knew ahead of time what they were voting on.
Am I reading this correctly? “City Council retains the right to set rates, hours of operation, and designate meter locations. However, reduction in meters, rates or hours that negatively impact the overall value of the meter system could result in a payment by the City to the Concessionaire.” Is this saying that the city (i.e. taxpayers) has to pay Chicago Parking Meters LLC if they are not making enough money off this deal? I want one of these win/win deals with the city!! —Redd
You’re reading that small print right. But don’t worry—it’s really not so hard to get one of those deals. All you need to do is run an international bank holding company that gets $10 billion in federal money.
Hey, Ben, at least run for alderman. I’d open my wallet. —Spook
Thanks, but this is Chicago—are you sure no one’s stolen it yet?
Thank you, Chicago Reader, for your hard work on ferreting out this information. I’ve been suspicious of these (privatization) deals ever since first hearing about them. Every one of these so-called “agreements” should be repealed. Tell your aldermen about these scams! —Garrett Tedeman, CPA
You’re onto something, though I’m pretty sure the aldermen already know about the scams, since they approved them.
Some are boycotting meters by parking on side streets or not driving at all; others have tagged or vandalized them. I’d say “‘not driving at all” is quite the positive side effect, corruption notwithstanding. —Katie
Great idea! All we need is to have Mayor Daley fix the CTA so we have another way to get to work.
Shame on Alderman Fioretti for supporting this measure. And to think I once supported him. —Free the 2nd Ward
Hey, go easy on Alderman Fioretti. He hasn’t been the same since Mayor Daley yelled at him for refusing to support one of the last rounds of tax hikes.
The people of Chicago who are negative about this truly greatest of mayors and long-time public servants like [aldermen] Ed Burke and Dick Mell have no grasp of the benefits these men have created for Chicago and its citizens. —Joel H. Cohen
So shut your mouth, Chicago, and feed those meters.
Is it true that the aldermanic function is the next to be sold/privatized? —Stage Left
Actually, I think that happened about 20 years ago.v
Ben Joravsky discusses his weekly column with journalist Dave Glowacz at mrradio.org/theworks. And for even more Joravsky, see our blog Clout City.