The [Wednesday] Papers
By Steve Rhodes
"Chicago's 35,000 parking meters were worth nearly twice as much as the $1.15 billion Mayor Daley got when he rammed through a 75-year lease in a few days without analyzing what the system was worth, the city's inspector general has concluded," the Sun-Times reports.
"The bottom line is, there was no outside, independent consideration of whether it was a good idea to do this," said Inspector General David Hoffman.
Which is really far more of an indictment on the city council - which is supposed to be a separate branch of government than the executive branch and should therefore have stopped the mayor in his tracks - than City Hall per se.
After all, Daley's pals worked on the lease deal for the better part of a year (at least) before presenting it to the city council and giving them fewer hours to consider the plan than years they were putting their signature to.
That's not to absolve Daley; it's just to say that we know by now that his motives are rarely pure.
The unanswered question about the parking meter deal remains: Why?
Now, Daley will tell you the deal was necessary because he needed money now.
"Without the $150 million cash infusion to plug a two-year budget gap, Daley said he would have been forced to lay off 2,300 city employees or raise property taxes 18 percent."
That claim would have more credibility if the specter of an 18 percent increase in property taxes wasn't so ludicrous. The truth is, Daley would likely have struck this deal even in good times.
Well, why does the mayor do anything? First, he gets a pile of cash to himself - kind of like TIF funds. He likes to control money without going through the usual channels of (theoretic) oversight.
And why else?
Because it enriches his pals.
Think of all those fees generated by lawyers and consultants.
Finally, for the same reason that, say, Tribune Company executives bought Times Mirror in 2000: ego.
You don't want to get bored, you like the action, you want to do bold things. It's fun.
If Daley truly made this deal because he needed money now and was willing to trade the next 75 years to get it even if it was a bad deal, that's a stunning abuse of fiduciary duty.
He should just say he did it because he felt like it.
The Reader dates the origins of the fiasco back to January 2005, when the city sold off the Skyway.
The Reader also notes that in February 2008, "The Chicago Park District announces it's spending $22 million to buy the office it's been renting at 541 N. Fairbanks, in Streeterville. The building's owner donated $50,000 to Mayor Daley's 2007 reelection campaign; Park District officials say there's no connection.
"Money for the purchase comes out of the $563 million the city and Park District received from Morgan Stanley for leasing the parking garages. Much of the money is already earmarked to pay off debt and after this deal there's only about $100 million left over for neighborhood parks. It turns out they'd have benefited more if the city had held on to the garages."
So we've been here before.
Daley Chief of Staff Paul Volpe says "many of [Hoffman's report's] central claims are, in fact, dubious."
Do tell, Paul.
Because Hoffman isn't the only one making the same central claims. In fact, every independent analysis we've seen - and we've seen three now - comes to the same conclusion.
"Tuesday's finding echoed a report by DePaul University professor H. Woods Bowman, a former Cook County official. Bowman's analysis, which the Tribune reported in February, concluded the city could have raked in $1.54 billion by keeping the meters in public hands," the Tribune reports.
Ald. Scott Waguespack found much the same in his own examination.
Are they all being ridiculous?
Follow the money, people.
Oh, this will help - bring in Jim Thompson!
"Inspector General David Hoffman was roughly halfway through his press conference criticizing the parking meter deal when reporters started getting the word over their cell phones: Paul Volpe, Mayor Daley's chief of staff, was going to hold a rebuttal press conference within minutes," Ben Joravsky writes.
"Talk about rapid response - if only Mayor Daley ran the CTA as efficiently as he goes after his critics."
"Lips quivering, voice occasionally cracking, [Volpe] expressed outrage bordering on disgust that Hoffman- or anyone for that matter - could even remotely suggest that things didn't work as well as they should in Chicago," Joravsky writes.
As noted by Joravsky and others, Volpe's best line was when he spluttered "It's impossible for us to force the city council on any matter!"
"When you take a quick look at the pre-season top 10 fantasy players from Yahoo!, only one - Albert Pujols - is performing up to expectations."
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Posted on June 3, 2009
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