The City of Chicago’s Inspector General this afternoon issued a report containing a detailed analysis of the lease of the City’s parking meter system.
While his report does not uncover any illegal conduct, the Inspector General’s analysis reveals that the parking meter lease agreement was an extremely bad financial deal for the city.
The report estimates that the City received about $975 million less for the parking meter system than it was worth to the city. The report acknowledges that this is a conservative estimate, and that the loss to the city is potentially much greater. The report concludes that the lack of transparency in formalizing the agreement and the last-minute rush to approve the deal contributed to this bad financial agreement.
To prevent this from occurring again, the report recommends that the City Council enact an ordinance to create a new review process for future sales or long-term leases of city assets. This recommended process would be a much more transparent, public and deliberate approach that would include a far more robust role for the City Council.
I plan to adopt these proposals and introduce them as an ordinance in the near future. In the meantime, I will renew my push for City Council hearings on the parking meter lease fiasco. These hearings will include a full discussion of the Inspector General’s report, as well as an investigation into the process leading to the lease agreement, the deficiencies in its implementation, and steps to remedy these deficiencies.
The report also underscores the importance of an independent and well-funded Inspector General’s Office. I will also renew my push for the adoption of my ordinance that expands the power and budget of the Inspector General’s office.
This report is a painful but necessary must-read for every member of the City Council. It is long past the time for the Council to begin acting as the co-equal branch of city government that it was intended to be. As the latest fiasco demonstrates, no one person has a corner on all wisdom and knowledge, and the Mayor his administration and the public at large would benefit from a more active and engaged City Council.