Mayor Rahm says, "Pay your meters, Chicago" | Bleader

Mayor Rahm says, "Pay your meters, Chicago"


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I was talking to a recently and unceremoniously fired high school teacher when word came down that the mayor had cut his own newer, better version of the parking meter deal.

As you may recall, in the original deal we gave a consortium of really rich people—Chicago Parking Meters LLC—the right to collect the money we feed parking meters for 75 years.

In return, they gave us about $1.2 billion—chump change to these cats. Or at least a small fraction of all the money they'll be raking in until 2084.

Well, actually, you and I didn't give them the right to control the meters.

That was a gift from the City Council, whose members were following Mayor Daley's orders. Just as they now follow Mayor Emanuel's orders.

Which is why you can bet they'll approve this newer, better version of the deal.

Mayor Emanuel declared that the parking meter deal was inviolable, meaning there was nothing—nothing, I tell you!—he could do to change most of its provisions.

'Cause it's a contract. And contracts are binding.

Well, some contracts are binding.

The contract he has with the teachers' union to protect tenured teachers—like that aforementioned high school teacher—isn't binding.

Which is why the mayor feels free to permit the firings of the tenured teacher and dozens of her colleagues every year for pretty much any reason. Apparently, constant teacher turnover is his key to improving the schools.

I will now break to teach you a valuable lesson of contract law as it's practiced in the reign of Mayor Rahm . . .

Contracts that protect the rights of really rich people are etched in stone.

But contracts that protect working people—like teachers, firefighters, and cops—are drawn in sand.

Got it? Now you too can be a lawyer for Mayor Rahm.

Back to the newer, better parking meter deal . . .

According to Mayor Emanuel, the original parking meter deal was even worse than we realized because it included a provision under which the city had to compensate the parking meter company when the city felt compelled to close the streets.

A provision, by the way, that Alderman Scott Waguespack—one of the few council members who doesn't blindly follow mayoral orders—warned us about back in 2008.

So in exchange for doing away with some onerous provisions, Mayor Emanuel's going to give the parking meter company about $9 million. As if they haven't already made enough money.

In exchange, the parking meter people are going to waive their right to take advantage of the onerous clauses for the remaining 71 years of this deal.

That will save the city "more than $1 billion in estimated future charges," according to the mayor.

How convenient and easy a number to remember.

Wait, the mayor's not done giving stuff to the parking meter people.

In addition to the $9 million, Mayor Emanuel's giving them the right to collect fares for an extra hour—or until 10 PM.

And what do we get in exchange?

We get to park for free on Sundays in all the neighborhoods in the city!

Except for the neighborhood between Roosevelt, Halsted, North Avenue, and Lake Michigan. Apparently, that's not a neighborhood, even though lots of neighbors live there.

The mayor said this is such a great deal for Chicagoans that we should immediately fall to our knees and say, "Thank you, Lord, for giving us such a great mayor!"

I didn't mean that literally, Alderman Pat O'Connor—so you can get up now.

Well, how bad is this deal?

Who knows? It's one of the mayor's classic take-my-word-for-it-arrangements, as he's yet to release the crucial information.

Like how much money we really owed Chicago Parking Meters for the onerous clauses. And how much money the company stands to make from that extra hour of fees. And how much money they're going to lose by not charging on Sundays. And how much money they get from that downtown neighborhood that's not really a neighborhood. Etc.

I'll bet you this. The parking meter company had access to this information before it cut the deal. And my guess is that the newer, better deal will wind up bringing them newer, better money.

At his press conference, the mayor said, "I'm trying to make a little lemonade out of a big lemon."

But what he didn't say is that he had previously undercut a legal challenge to the parking meter deal, thus throwing away whatever leverage he had in negotiating with the parking meter company.

We had to rely on Mick Dumke to tell us that.

And the mayor didn't say that not long after he undercut that legal challenge, Winston & Strawn, the law firm that represented the parking meter company, threw him a fund-raiser.

Once again, Mick Dumke told us that.

Maybe we should have Mick run for mayor—if Toni Preckwinkle chickens out.

Well, that's our Mayor Emanuel. When it comes to firing teachers, he's Mayor Tough Guy. But when it comes to looking out for parking meter companies, he's Mayor Meek-as-a-Lamb.

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