Where will you be in 75 years? I will be dead and most anyone reading this column will be dead. I will even guesstimate that the majority of children living today will be dead and for the most part, it will be our great-great-grandchildren who will be the ones living and paying taxes when the lease of the Chicago parking meters finally comes to an end.
In just the past couple of years, we taxpayers have, for the most part, stood silently by while the mayor and the city council have leased out infrastructure work that was originally paid for by our parents and grandparents. The mayor and his band of 50 cronies have leased the Skyway, the Chicago parking garages, Midway and now the parking meters. Each time a city entity was leased, it was done with the tale that it would solve a “current economic crisis.” I won’t even begin to write about the money the city lost when Daley ordered Meigs Field destroyed in the middle of the night.
Only two of the three Austin aldermen, Ed Smith (28th Ward) and Emma Mitts (37th Ward) were present and voted to lease the parking meters. Alderman Ike Carothers (29th Ward) was absent. I looked up the number of parking meters in each ward and according to published reports, the 28th Ward has 196 meters, the 29th Ward has 110 meters and my ward, the 37th, has 18.
The city will get $1.2 billion for leasing the meters. The company giving the city that money plans to not only recoup their $1.2 billion over the next 75 years, but they also will make a profit. And that is where most Chicagoans should focus their thoughts. How much profit?
We know the amounts to feed a meter will go up. And if the higher amounts the meters earn will cover the amount of the payout on the lease and the profit back to the company, I guess we all have to live with that. But what we shouldn’t have to live with is the city installing one new meter anywhere. Because any new meter installation will mean that the money from it will go back to the leasing company and theoretically would be an additional tax on the citizenry of Chicago by forcing us to pay profits to a company above and beyond what they should be earning.
We as citizens need to be very vigilant when Daley leases a city property and then the proceeds don’t ever seem to fix the budget problems. There is a finite number of things in the city that can be leased. There is also a finite amount that a budget can maintain.
For example, recently the city’s budget director, Bennett Johnson III, resigned his $163,656-a-year job after it was revealed he had spent $5,000 to have a shower installed in his office-so that he could clean up after biking to work. Huh? In today’s economy, the city can cut that salary in half and find hundreds of applicants among all the people who have been laid off from companies all over the city.
By the way, when the new CTA headquarters was built, they too had showers installed in the building at Clinton and Lake so that workers who biked to work could shower. That sort of irresponsible leadership and corresponding lack of public outrage is why the budgets for the city and other agencies are so out whack. Taxpayers are seen as an endless ATM machine that can be tapped whenever there is a nickel needed for this or a dime needed for that. All the while the economy is tanking, people are out of work and it may take years for us to recover.
The Boston Tea Party took place on Dec. 16, 1773 because of “taxation without representation.” Now 235 years later, we need to protest because of “taxation by misrepresentation.”