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Daley Double Talking on Parking Meter Deal.

Don Rose 5 November 2018 No Comment

In true Trumpian fashion,  mayoral candidate William “Bill” Daley gave two Chicago newspapers  two opposing opinions of his brother Richard’s most detested deed as mayor: virtually selling the city’s parking meter operations to a private firm for comparative peanuts then quickly blowing all the proceeds. The firm sent parking rates sky-high and now rakes in hundreds of millions.

   In his first version, before entering the race, Bill defended the deal with a  strong rationale, lauding it as “good business.”  Five months later, as a candidate, he declared the deal a “mistake” he would not make.

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   In neither version did he disclose what he–his brother’s most trusted advisor–recommended in the first place. Nor did he happen to  mention how his son, William Jr.–Rich’s nephew–profited from the deal.

    Here’s the history: In 2008 Mayor Daley leased  Chicago’s entire parking meter operation for 75 years to a new venture called Chicago Parking Meter LLC for $1.6 billion. Most of the proceeds went to plug budget gaps. Meanwhile, CPM quadrupled parking rates within a year.

   The deal also requires the city to reimburse CPM any revenues lost when metered spaces are closed for street repairs. Last year that rebate was $20 million.

   To date CPM has earned nearly $1 billion and its investors will recoup the purchase price by 2021 with 62 years left for profits. Chicago gets nothing but irate parkers paying escalating fees.

   CPM is a consortium of three investment firms led by Morgan Stanley, which packaged the deal. Morgan Stanley’s public finance chief is  William Daley, Jr.

    Nephewtism?

    In Chicago?

   Perish the thought. Selling the city’s underground garages to Morgan Stanley at bargain prices also had nothing to do with familial clout.

    On May 9 non-candidate Bill Sr. published an op-ed essay in the Chicago Tribune pushing back against columnist Eric Zorn’s critique of brother Rich’s greatest failures, including the meter deal.

    “Here are the facts,” Bill wrote. “The meter system was generating only $19 million a year before the lease was made. The city simply did not have the resources to adequately invest in the antiquated system. The private operator, however, completed a wholesale modernization ahead of schedule.

    “The deal also preserved the City Council’s decision-making authority over the meters’ placement, numbers, hours of operation and fees. The transaction enabled the city to deposit an additional $400 million into its long-term reserve.”

    He also defended the garage sale: “Without that sale, it is questionable whether Millennium Park could have been finished.

   “As with the parking meters, it made good business sense to let an expert operate the parking system under the parks,” he wrote.

    Fast forward to Oct.27.

     Sun-Times City Hall reporter Fran Spielman asks candidate Daley about the meter deal.

     “The way they did it was absolutely a mistake,” he answers. “I would not do that deal.”

     Spielman noted that Bill’s proposed new ethics plan prohibits a mayor’s family from doing any business with the city, but he “refused to pass judgment on past family profiteering.”

    She asks Bill why he didn’t tell Rich it was the wrong thing to do.

     Quoth Bill:

    “Because I wasn’t running for mayor at the time.”

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Don Rose is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer

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