Just about every Chicago mayoral hopeful is going out of his or her way to criticize the city's long-term parking meter lease. (It's wildly unpopular, after all.) Gery Chico has introduced a city ordinance intended to replenish the meter reserve fund, which the Daley administration has virtually drained in just two years. Like some lawyers who are challenging the deal in court, Carol Moseley Braun wants the city to take the parking meters back from the private company to which the city sold the system. (To repay Chicago Parking Meters LLC. for its property, however, Moseley Braun says she would advocate "redoing the contract and selling it to somebody else.") Rahm Emanuel has even criticized the outgoing mayor's use of the funds. (He has not yet offered a fix going forward, however, and remains cordial with clout-heavy William Blair & Company, the firm that first brought to the Daley administration the idea of privatizing the system.)
The meter acrimony doesn't stop there. In the Council Chambers, four city aldermen -- including Cook County Board President-elect Toni Preckwinkle -- introduced a resolution to put a question on the ballot asking, "Shall the City of Chicago re-negotiate the Parking Meter Privatization Agreement?" It's not just local pols who think the city erred greatly, either; Bloomberg's Darrell Preston reported this morning that several cities including Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, and Los Angeles are using Chicago's experience as a case study of how not to privatize its meters.
We should hope these criticisms aren't just campaign theatrics. Going forward, several city services could be sold off to plug budget gaps. Every single deal should face as much scrutiny as the meters are generating currently.
UPDATE (12:57 p.m.): Moseley Braun has actually launched a website -- TakeBackOurQuarters.com -- devoted to the issue. On the site, she also notes that she would "sue William Blair for their role in letting this horrible deal go through."