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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Challenging the Constitutionality of Privatizing Parking Meters in Chicago

Since the City of Chicago leased its parking meters to the aptly named Chicago Parking Meter Incorporated, the entire affair was nothing short of a debacle. Some areas have seen their rates rise as much as 400%. While that came as a surprise to many Chicagoans, it shouldn't have. That's because these increases were negotiated into the contract. In fact, the Daley administration negotiated these increases into the contract. Desperate for cash and lacking political will to do it themselves, it appears the Daley administration saw this as the only way to raise rates and much needed revenue without suffering a massive political fallout. As it turns out, the fallout was huge nonetheless. Now, the constitutionality of this contract is being challenged.

The law firm of Clint Kristov is heading a class action lawsuit against the city, it's comptroller, the Secretary of State in Illinois, Jesse White, and the State's current Comptroller Dan Hynes, challenging the constitutionality of this contract. Kristov is himself currently running for state Comptroller as a Democrat.

The nexis of the lawsuit comes from this portion of the Illinois constitution.

public funds, property or credit, shall be used only for public purposes.

CPM is, however, a private enterprise. If someone parks in a designated parking meter and they don't pay, it is the city of Chicago that issues said ticket. By extension, they are enforcing for a private entity. Thus, in the view of th plaintiffs, this would violate this portion of the Constitution. It would be no different than the city issuing a citation on behalf of Macy's.

Furthermore, five or more violations of non payment of a meter also means the suspension of one's license. Here again, the State is using public funds to enforce for a private entity.

There is also, in the view of the plaintiffs, a violation of a city code

the corporate authorities of each municipality may regulate the use of the streets and other city property.

This right, in the view of the plaintiffs, doesn't give the city the right to lease a part of the street as it's done by leasing the meters.

Finally, the length of the lease, 75 years, also violates a basic function of the City Council. That's because city councils cannot enter into contracts beyond its terms. A city council is elected for four years. This contract is for 75 years. As such, future city councils would have no power over this lease.

The case is making its way through the city's Circuilt Court system and updates will come.


AG said...

I guess you could say raising prices is one of the many things the private sector does better than the government.

mike volpe said...

CPM is not the private sector but a private monopoly. Don't be a partisan.