Monday, January 12, 2009

Alderman Moore's City Clowncil Report, 01/12/09

Alderman Moore's City Clowncil Report Dear Comrade, I am Joe Moore, the Most Valuable Local Official in this great nation, with another of my City Clowncil reports. Bear with me. The City Clowncil met twice in December--a special meeting on December 4th to consider an ordinance authorizing the leasing of Chicago's parking meters. That’s privatization, folks! Man, I love private enterprise! The geniuses in the private sector are way smarter than the dopes in the City Clowncil. Look, I’m just having a rare moment of honesty here. Bear with me. Anyway, that December 4th meeting was followed by the regular monthly meeting on December 17. I’m not sure why I put “th” after “4” but not after “17,” but let’s just move on. Bear with me. At the December 4th meeting, the mayor asked the City Clowncil to approve a 75-year concession agreement with Chicago Parking Meters, LLC, to operate Chicago's 36,000 parking meters. The agreement was an admission by the City of Chicago that it is too inept to operate a simple parking meter system, and that we need the help of the private sector to do so. The deal resulted in a nearly $1.2 billion upfront payout to the City at a time when the city is facing its greatest fiscal crisis since the Great Depression. Chicago’s had a fiscal problem for many years now, thanks to morons like me. After all, we’ve let the mayor spend your money on a lot of unnecessary crap. We must admit, however, that all those shiny new fences have improved the lives of every Chicagoan. Meanwhile, here in the 49th Ward, I’m seeking a private contractor who can figure out how to pick up that two-year old pile of gravel obstructing the sidewalk in the 1300 block of W. Morse Avenue. That’s a tough challenge! We should approach any long-term lease of a major city asset with a skeptical eye. On balance, however, I believe this agreement is good for the City and its taxpayers by providing much-needed revenue during the economic crisis caused by Democrats who coddled Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which helped precipitate the collapse of the housing market. Some of my own good friends in Rogers Park are in bed with Countrywide Finance. (They know who they are, and I don’t need to name names.) As a result, my own revenue stream from developers has dried up. This is unacceptable, but we’re still looking into spending more money on those expensive, high-tech Big Belly trash cans. As a result of this agreement, the City will establish a $100 million "human infrastructure fund." At a time when other cities are drastically cutting back on entitlement programs to those who are most likely to vote for Democrats, Chicago is selling off its own resources and will be able to maintain its carefree spending habits. While hard working people in Chicago are suffering under higher and higher taxes, what little wealth they have remaining will continue to be confiscated by your local government to fund free social services programs and wealth redistribution for “affordable housing” and homeless prevention initiatives for people who haven’t gotten off their lazy asses to work in years. The City will also establish $400 million in a long-term reserve/revenue replacement fund, similar to the $500 million long-term Chicago Skyway reserve. The annual return from this fund alone--$30 million--far exceeds the $18 million per year the City currently nets from parking meter revenue. Nevertheless, although I’ve just made it sound like Chicago is swimming in a sea of money, I will continue to use idiotic phrases like “greatest fiscal crisis since the Great Depression.” In addition, these reserve funds provide the city with an important revenue source in the event of an economic catastrophe. Now, you may notice that I’m contradicting myself here. I just said “in the event of an economic catastrophe,” yet earlier I wrote that we’re in “the greatest fiscal crisis since the Great Depression.” So, we have tons of money, but we’re in a crisis. It’s confusing, isn’t it? Another $325 million will be used to help balance city budgets through 2012. Remember, however, that even though our budget will be “balanced” for full four years (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012), Chicago is in “the greatest fiscal crisis since the Great Depression.” It’s important that you remember this, even though unemployment and interest rates are nowhere near as bad as they were during the Carter Administration in the 1970’s, long after the Great Depression. Carter, however, was a Democrat and so we give him a pass on that. Although the use of the lease proceeds for operating expenses should be employed very rarely, the City is faced with an enormous budgetary shortfall as a result of the worldwide recession. I know, I know. You’re wondering why I continue to contradict myself. I just wrote that “Another $325 million will be used to help balance city budgets through 2012,” yet here I am now saying that we’re “faced with an enormous budgetary shortfall.” I don’t know what the hell I’m saying. Bear with me. This shortfall has led to budget cuts and layoffs, which have already noticeably affected the quality of city services. My own salary was just increased, however, when I accepted a 6 percent raise. Rest assured, then, that your City Clowncil members will continue to eat well even as we approve laying off ordinary working stiffs, in spite of the fact that I just wrote that we’ve got “$325 million will be used to help balance city budgets through 2012.” Without this infusion of revenue from the parking meter lease, the City would have had to entirely rework the City's 2009 finances, including a new round of layoffs and either more draconian cuts in city services or an increase in taxes this year and beyond. So, you may be asking, why do we have to lay off so many people now that we’re getting all that money? I don’t know. Really, I don’t know. Finally, approximately $324 million will go into a budget stabilization fund that could be used to cover a portion of the city's budgetary shortfalls should the nation fall into an even deeper and more sustained economic recession than is currently predicted. Yes, more confusion and contradiction. I apologize. Bear with me. In short, the infusion of $1.2 billion to the city coffers couldn't have come at a better time, and the allocation of the revenue between critical short-term needs and long-term investment is both prudent and fiscally responsible. Remember, we’re laying off hard working city employees to help pay for a lot of free stuff for non-working folks. That’s a good thing. In addition to the revenue infusion, the agreement will also result in upgraded parking meters, and every Chicagoan loves parking meters. By 2011, all meters must accept both coins and credit cards, alleviating the need to carry around a bunch of quarters. Now, you must carry around a wallet full of credit cards and paper money to park. Those quarters don’t buy much time on a meter anymore. Much of the press attention about the agreement has been focused on the increase in parking meter rates, and many folks have contacted my office expressing understandable concern about those increases. I urge those people to stop whining. The increased rates will not come all at once, but will be phased in from 2009 through 2013. So like a frog in a slowly boiling pot of water, you won’t even know it’s happening. Relax, just let it happen. In neighborhoods, such as the 49th Ward, parking meter rates currently are at either $0.25 or $0.50 an hour. Rates will increase this year to $1.00 an hour. How’s that for helping you during tough economic times? The increase in Rogers Park parking rates will undoubtedly help bring more shoppers to our beautiful shopping areas on Howard Street and Morse Avenue. Planned annual increases will bring this rate to $2.00 an hour in 2013, which should encourage even more shoppers to come to the 49th Ward. After that, any increases will be subject to the approval of the City Clowncil and are expected to be at the rate of inflation, which is still much lower that it was under President Carter. Never mind that things like higher parking meter rates actually contribute to higher inflation. While this is a noticeable rate increase, and clearly a hardship for some in these difficult economic times, the rates on most parking meters in our neighborhood have remained the same for over the last twenty years, a foolish oversight on our part. Look, they probably would have increased with or without the agreement with Chicago Parking Meters, LLC. So shut up already. Given that fact, and given the very real benefits to the city and its taxpayers of one billion dollars of much-needed revenue, I voted in support of the agreement. I know I’m throwing a lot of numbers around. Earlier, I wrote that the parking meter deal “resulted in a nearly $1.2 billion upfront payout to the City,” but I just wrote “one billion” would be provided. Look, what’s a discrepancy of $200 million? Bear with me here. Some of you have asked how the parking meter lease agreement and the new rates will affect my earlier decision to install parking meters in Jarvis Square, where my windowless ward service office is located. My indecision was based in part on the premise that the parking meters rates would be set at $.50 an hour. See, the agreement will increase rates at all neighborhood parking meters to $1.00 an hour this year and $2.00 an hour by 2013. That’s confusing as hell, so I have decided to put my decision on hold until we determine the full impact of the new rates. Will higher rates discourage shopping, or encourage it? Is it fair to have a different rate there than on Morse Avenue? I will then host another community meeting to discuss the proposal to install meters in Jarvis Square in light of the new rates. This allows me to not make any decision at all, and to lay it squarely on your shoulders. After all, I’m only paid six figures to be your alderman, and a decision as big as this seems above my pay grade. At its December 17th meeting, the City Clowncil turned its attention to the potential hosting of the 2016 Olympics. We’ll spend inordinate amounts of money to build temporary structures for that, but the opportunity for graft and corruption is irresistible. The issue at hand was the City's purchase of the shuttered Michael Reese Hospital on the near South Side. If the City is awarded the Olympics, the plan is to transform the facility and grounds into an Olympic Village. After all, temporary housing for athletes from other countries is far more important than keeping a much needed hospital open. If the City is unsuccessful in its Olympic bid, the property will be redeveloped for private use, and that provides yet another opportunity for graft and corruption. It’s a win-win proposition, especially since the City obtained the hospital property at below market rates. The measure passed unanimously. The hospital property falls within the City's 4th Ward, represented by my colleague Alderman Toni Preckwinkle, who is one of the most Liberal and independent voices on the City Clowncil. Although I am a more valuable local official than Alderman Preckwinkle is, she has been working hard to make sure the deal is good for her community and the entire City. Like me, she believes the comfort of foreign athletes is more important than having a health care facility there. She will be introducing a community benefits ordinance at tomorrow's City Clowncil meeting, which will ensure that selected Democrat voters will receive some of the benefits of the new Olympics, including patronage jobs and housing subsidize by wealth redistribution. I strongly support the ordinance. The next City Clowncil meeting, the first of 2009, will take place tomorrow, Tuesday, January 13th. As always, I will give you a full, wordy, highly confusing report. Sincerely, Joe Moore Visit the website of the 49th Ward Click here to be removed from our email list Subscribe to Chicago News Bench