Chicago Reader writer Mick Dumke's story yesterday, "Rahm Emanuel's shifting views of the parking meter deal," provides a detailed time line of how Mayor Emanuel has changed his tune time and time again in regards to the parking meter deal. First, he admits that it was a bad deal, but claims that it's too late to do anything. Then, as the election gets into high gear, he says that the deal should be renegotiated. Then, most recently, during his interview on "Chicago Tonight" last week, he said that the parking meter deal "offends him," but there is nothing to be done about it.
I agree that it is probably too late to undo the parking meter deal, especially since the cash-strapped City of Chicago has already spent all but $124 million of the $1.2 billion that we got for the meter system. But moving forward, Mayor Emanuel must take steps to protect the public from bad deals in the future. He must ensure that if the City of Chicago wants to sell off more public assets, that they do it in a way that puts the public interest ahead of a desire for a short-term influx of money. He should support the "Asset Lease Ordinance" which has these public protections:
1. There must be an independent evaluation of deals to ensure taxpayers receive fair value. It’s important to make sure future revenues aren’t sold off at a discount just because the city is facing tough budget decisions.
2. There must be complete transparency to ensure proper public vetting. The proposed ordinance requires a 30 day public review period before the city council votes on any privatization ordinance.
3. The Mayor’s office must report to the public whenever an asset lease deal is being considered.
4. No lease should last more than 30 years to minimize the risks of a bad deal haunting us for generations.
Instead of flip-flopping on his position on the parking meter deal, Mayor Emanuel should simply show the public that he has learned from Mayor Daley's mistakes by supporting this ordinance, and ensure that no more of our public assets are sold out of the public eye at a discount.