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City Council passes ordinance to prevent another parking meter deal

City Council passes ordinance to prevent another parking meter deal
Photograph: Tony Webster/Wikimedia Commons

The Chicago City Council passed an ordinance on Wednesday that will prevent the city from making privatization deals similar to the 2008 fiasco that led to the leasing of the city's parking meters. Under the new Privatization Transparency, Accountability and Performance Ordinance (PTAPO), City Council will be forced to give at least 90 days of review before any of the city's assets are sold off. Additionally, it requires that 10 percent of the proceeds from leases that exceed $400 million or 20 years be put into a fund to be invested by the city treasurer.

The measure, which was backed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, comes just a month after he tried and failed to privatize the city's 311 system, and is based on the process that the council used to evaluate and reject the privatization of Midway Airport in 2013. 

“This new ordinance establishes common sense rules of the road for privatizing city assets or services,” Emanuel said in a press release. “It shines a spotlight on the process and ensures that the right questions are asked. That way we will only approve privatization agreements that are good deals for Chicago’s taxpayers.”

While PTAPO is a big win for Chicagoans, its passing is almost a decade too late. In Mayor Richard M. Daley's last term, he negotiated a 75-year, $1.16 billion lease of Chicago's parking meters to a private company with just two days of review—a move that hasn't exactly helped the city pull itself out of a crippling budget hole. 

With the city facing colossal pension fund obligations over the next five years and Springfield still gridlocked over a 2016 budget, a ceremonial 90-day review might be the only thing standing between Rahm and company selling the entire city to a foreign investment firm.