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Two of the five aldermen who voted against Mayor Richard M. Daley’s parking meter deal last week were Black and said they did so because they did not have enough time to evaluate the deal.

Two of the five aldermen who voted against Mayor Richard M. Daley’s parking meter deal last week were Black and said they did so because they did not have enough time to evaluate the deal.

The City Council voted 40-5 to approve a 75-year, $1.2 billion lease with Chicago Parking Meters LLC to manage the city’s 35,000 parking meters, which also means a price hike set to take effect Jan.1.

“This is the third time the city has done this. We had 72 hours to study the proposal while the city worked on this deal for a year,” said 4th Ward Alderman Toni Preckwinkle. “This is not the first time the city rushed us to vote on a privatization deal. They did the same thing with the Skyway and Midway Airport deals.”

And 5th Ward Alderwoman Leslie Hairston echoed the same concerns about the deal.

“It’s a bad deal for the city. Just because it’s cash upfront does not mean we won’t need the (parking meter) money 60 years from now,” she said. “This is the third time the city has rushed aldermen on a privatization deal, and I think it is done by design. And every time they do this, I will vote no.”

The city’s Budget Director Bennett Johnson III declined comment. Johnson quit on Friday. Lisa Schrader, a spokeswoman for Chief Financial Officer Paul Volpe, said the deal needed fast approval because there were interest rate risks if the deal was not closed by year-end.

“I admit there was some budget pressure with this deal, but that was because of credit rating and interest rate risks the city faced had the deal not closed by year-end,” she said. “But the aldermen knew about the rate increases beforehand, so if they did not approve, they could have spoke up then.”

She added that parking meter rates have not been raised in 20 years.

And even though Preckwinkle and Hairston voted against it, every other Black aldermen voted for the deal, including 24th Ward Alderwoman Sharon Denise Dixon, 21st Ward Alderman Howard Brookins Jr. and 28th Ward Alderman Ed. Smith.

“I agree with the other aldermen that we did not have enough time to fully digest the proposal. But it was either vote for it or see more people laid off,” Dixon said. “Besides, I only have 35 meters in my ward, and all aldermen reserve the right to set parking meter rates in their wards. And you can bet I will not increase rates from 25 cents to $3.”

Alderman Brookins said he, too, voted for the proposal to prevent more layoffs.

“I trust the Corporation Counsel’s judgment (that) this was a good deal and the only way to prevent more city employees from losing their jobs,” Brookins said. “I do not have any meters in my ward, but that does not mean my constituents won’t be affected.”

The thought of city services being cut was one reason why Smith voted for the parking meter lease agreement.

“I did not want to see the city raise taxes to fund city services so I voted for the deal,” Smith said. “Was this a rush job? Yes. But was I pressured to cast my vote? No. No one pressures me to do anything. Still, I think this is a good deal for the city because no one lost their job and no new taxes were added to the budget.”

Downtown motorists who now pay $3 an hour to park will soon pay upwards of $3.50, and by 2013, it will jump to $6.50 an hour. The deal also calls for meters to be fed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including holidays.

Neighborhood parking rates, which now range from 25 to 75 cents an hour, could increase to $1 and continue rising as years go on.

Copyright 2008 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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