Chicago Parking Meter Lease 'One Of The World's Best' Public-Private Deals, New York Times Says


By now, we should probably be accustomed to this sort of thing coming from the New York Times.

But then again, there is a difference between a grating book review and a piece that reads more like a conservative think-tank's op-ed than a blog post featured on the nation's largest newspaper and most popular news website.

In a July 15 post, Kent Rowey, an attorney at New York law firm Allen & Overy, writes in a DealBook blog post titled "Public-Private Partnerships Could Be a Lifeline for Cities" that Chicago's much-maligned parking meter deal -- where, in 2008, the city leased some 36,000 of its meters to Chicago Parking Meters LLC in a $1.2 billion, 75-year contract -- is "considered one of the world’s best" in that it "exposed abuses of handicapped parking permits and led to the passage of a law preventing abuses" in addition to streamlining the city's costs of running the parking program.

Critics and proponents of government privatization alike probably would agree the Chicago parking meter deal is not the strongest example to cite in discussing such partnerships' ability to come to the rescue of cash-strapped cities.

The deal, of course, has been panned by everyone from Mayor Rahm Emanuel to the city's drivers who have seen parking prices skyrocket to become the highest parking rates in the nation while Chicago Parking Meters LLC enjoys ever-surging revenue from the deal -- to the tune of $139 million last year, a nearly 29 percent increase over the previous year's revenue.

And, perhaps most importantly, as Reuters' Cate Long points out and the New York Times did not disclose, Rowey worked on the Chicago parking meter deal and directly benefited from it through his law firm. He cites the gig in his biography.

The blog post has already proven almost as unpopular as the infamous meter deal itself among Chicago columnists, including the Sun-Times' Neil Steinberg who described it as "deeply incorrect, deceptive and morally indefensible" in a Wednesday post. Steinberg continues:

"To run this thickly-cloaked advertisement and self-promotion as any kind of journalism, particularly if it encourages imitation of the expensive civic folly that Chicago’s parking meter deal represents, is beyond irresponsible."

Incidentally, Tuesday marked the 78th anniversary of the world's first parking meter being installed. Thanks, Carl C. Magee.

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