In Chicago, city officials entered into a 75 year privatization parking contract. In return, Chicago received a billion dollar up front payment that went into the city's operating fund. Most has been spent already. With the new vendor, parking rates have skyrocketed in the Windy City.
The Ballard administration indicates that it too intends to enter into a long term agreement with a private company to lease the city's parking meters and garages. In return the City will get an infusion of upfront cash.
WRTV reports assurances by the administration that the Chicago mistake won't be repeated here:
Michael Huber, the mayor's point man on parking, says while rates would likely go up, "It certainly wouldn't be anything near what Chicago and other cities have done. Any proposed or recommended increases to the [City-County] Council will be much more modest and it would be based on demand."Wait a second. How long are those streets and sidewalks that you fix up with the money obtained from a 75 year parking meter money contract going to last? Ten years maybe? What happens the other 65 years of the 75 year contract?
And unlike Chicago, which put the billion dollars toward their operating budget - much of which has already been spent - Indianapolis would put it into capital improvements to pay for things like streets and sidewalks.
"By law, the proceeds from the parking meters are required to be invested in infrastructure in the vicinity of those parking meters," said Huber.
I bet you anything too that the decades long privatization contract will include a provision that the new company not raise rates for a few years - enough to get beyond the 2011 elections.
There is no question that the parking situation needs modernization and consolidation. The City though appears to be using this need as a way of mortgaging our children's future by trading a contract that will bind them for an upfront infusion of cash that our children will never see the benefit of.
This is a situation that cries out for the General Assembly to act. There will always be a natural tendency of municipal governments to want to get their hands on huge stashes of cash. They should, however, not be able to do that by binding future generations with long-term privatization contracts at the cost of taking revenues from those future generations.