8/24/2009Group Sues Over Chicago Parking Meter Privatization
Lawsuit challenges ability of Chicago, Illinois to privatize parking meters.
Motorists have been hard hit by the increase in the cost of parking in in Chicago, Illinois that began with a deal struck in February. In the central business district, for example, the cost to park for an hour doubled from $1 an hour to $2 and will quadruple to $4 an hour by 2013. Meters must also now be fed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The hikes came after Mayor Richard M. Daley (D) leased the city's 36,000 parking meters to Morgan Stanley for 75 years in return for an up-front payment of $1.15 billion. The Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization (IVI-IPO), a liberal government reform group, fought back last Wednesday by filing a lawsuit hoping a judge would find the parking meter contract unlawful.
"This is a horrible deal for Chicago taxpayers," IVI-IPO spokesman Owen Brugh said. "But IVI-IPO intends to hold the city accountable. Even the city of Chicago has to follow the law."
The suit claims that the city has no legal right to use public resources to enforce parking regulations and repair the privately owned parking meters for the benefit of a private entity. This arrangement, the suit contends, violates Article 8, Section 1 of the Illinois Constitution which that states "public funds, property or credit shall be used only for public purposes."
The group also argues that state law giving Chicago the right to "regulate the use of streets and other municipal property" does not give the city authority to lease those streets until February 29, 2084. The suit claims such long-term contracts are inherently invalid because they deprive future city councils of any control over the way the streets and parking meters are regulated.
IVI-IPO is upset that although Daley's administration will have $1.15 billion to spend now, future generations of motorists could pay more than $3.5 billion in parking charges. If the city makes any improvements to city streets that eliminates a parking space, such as adding a crosswalk or bus stop, taxpayers must pay "damages" to Morgan Stanley.
IVI-IPO asked the Cook County Circuit Court to prohibit the Illinois Secretary of State from suspending the driver's license of anyone who failed to pay a privately issued parking ticket. The group also wants an injunction that prohibits Chicago from spending any public money for the benefit of the parking meter program.
Morgan Stanley operates the meters under the name Chicago Parking Meters, LLC. A copy of the suit is available in a 700k PDF file at the source link below.