The [Thursday] Papers
"Church leaders took a 'leap of faith' Wednesday and got behind Mayor Rahm Emanuel's compromise plan to charge non-profits for city water, after some last-second lobbying that ended with unanimous City Council approval," WBEZ reports.
"The city will now charge non-profits based on a sliding scale, determined by their net assets. Groups and churches with less than $1 million in net assets will still get free water, while groups that are worth more than $250 million would pay full price."
That actually sounds like a pretty good plan, but taking a leap of faith in Chicago is like betting it all against the house in Las Vegas: It's just not realistic to think you're going to be rewarded.
"Coalition leaders claim they had the City Council votes to block the mayor's plan, but withdrew their opposition after gaining assurances that administrative rules would later be written in their favor."
If I had a parking meter for every time someone around here has heard that, I'd be a very rich man.
Meter Madness 2.0
"But the mayor dodged repeated questions about the details, including how he could assure taxpayers and aldermen that it was a good deal to get free Sunday parking in city neighborhoods in return for longer hours at meters across the city."
That's because he can't.
"I've been around the city a lot," Rahm said. "And I've talked to a lot of aldermen and a lot of other people who wanted the convenience of going back to free Sundays like we used to have. Eighty-one percent of the meters will be out of commission on Sundays - gone. Now, the only way you can do [that] in a straight-jacket was to set up a trade-off. I've asked the City Council, unlike the past with three days, to evaluate this and take the time to ask questions."
Emphasis mine. Why?
Because the Sun-Times reports that Ald. Brendan Reilly, who opposes the swap, "has said the clincher for him was when Corporation Counsel Stephen Patton told aldermen during closed-door briefings that the swap was 'not important' to the company. It was an add-on demanded by the mayor."
And why would the mayor do that?
Hence, Rahm's talking point that what he was doing was good for "Sunday church-goers."
Who will soon have to pass the hat for water bills because their pastors took a leap of faith.
"Under the agreement, the city would swap more than 1,800 parking spaces - including nearly 1,000 in the Loop - in return for 17 parking lots with 1,100 spaces currently operated by the parking firm," the Tribune account says.
"The mayor's office did not provide the section of the agreement that details the locations of those spaces, but a spokeswoman for the mayor said they are outside the Loop. Emanuel said another positive aspect of the plan would be the new ability for drivers to pay for parking with their cellphones, as they can in other major cities. But some details of that plan were likewise unclear."
Maybe it's just a framework of an agreement, like the Wrigley Field deal.
Or maybe the council is being asked to vote on a draft and the final plan won't be known until later, like CPS school closings.
Or maybe we're all just supposed to take a leap . . .
"Thom Serafin, a spokesman for Chicago Parking Meters, said the company had no estimates for how many Chicago drivers might use the [pay-by-cell] program or how much it might earn in interest by investing the balance of those accounts."
The company hasn't run the numbers?
Let me tell you something: Corporations in America don't take leaps of faith. They know exactly how much they're going to rake in. That's why they're so happy.
Right now, the 16 lots with 1,100 collective spaces are under the direct control of Chicago Parking Meters LLC, the private operator which in 2008 leased the city's parking operation for 75 years. That means they're used for parking, and only parking. Most of the lots are located in the 46th, 47th, 32nd and 35th Wards, with another cluster in the Southwest Side's 19th Ward.
How is a $1 million annual loss worth it? Team Emanuel doesn't say and it's not clear that Hinz asked. And that's really the most important part of the article.
"Of course, the city says that operationally, it will still come out ahead $110,000 a year overall."
I have no idea what that means. The $1 million annual loss is net. What does it mean, then, to "operationally" still come out $110,000 a year?
Maybe we're just supposed to take it on faith.
"It's a controversial strategy that former Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan believed was an answer to improving public education.
"But in the most recent round of proposed school closings, CPS is shutting down the very schools Duncan created."
Maybe those schools can be turned into parking lots for street festivals that turn operational profits. #GrouponAccounting.
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Posted on May 9, 2013
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