In a city where gangs own the streets and one private firm owns all metered parking on those streets, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is moving to adjust the much-loathed 75-year parking meter lease. In his final round of “sweeteners” forwarded to the City Council, he’d lessen the parking-meter bite by letting the meter company also charge for use of public benches.
“If the citizens of Chicago are going to park their butts on a city-owned bench, the citizens of Chicago have a right to charge themselves for that convenience,” Mayor Emanuel said. “Likewise, the city has the right to transfer all of the revenue-generating benefits to a private firm for the rest of our natural lives.”
In exchange for letting Chicago Parking Meters LLC install meters at the city’s 2,000 park benches, the company would allow free permanent parking at 0.2 percent of its lowest profit-generating parking spaces. With 34,000 existing privatized metered spots, Emanuel said this equated to “emancipating” 68 new parking spots.
Park bench meter rates would apply during all peak and off-peak hours, with the exception of Sundays after sunset when most parks are closed. For user convenience, payment will be accepted by cell phone, except in portions of the West and South Sides where cell phone “dark zones” continue to persist.
“We expect to fix this glitch once my citywide wi-fi initiative is completed any time within the next 1 to 20 years,” the mayor said. “And oh yeah, the park bench privatization plan will of course add another 10,000 new jobs.”
The mayor’s plan did not receive universal praise. The majority of the City Council complained about it, but said little could be done. Just as with the original parking meter deal, council members feel the city’s dire budget woes precludes any prudence, due-diligence oversight or public debate.
“Our hands are bound and tied in leather,” said City Council Finance Chairman Edward Burke. “It’s like the mayor is a sexy dominatrix holding our leash as we beg, plead and squirm. I wish we had worked out a safe word beforehand, but at this point, we just need to grin and bear it until the sadistic scenario plays itself out.”
However, parents of struggling Little Leaguers weren’t as pleasurably docile. They resent the metering of dugout benches at little league fields, claiming it’s a regressive tax on the least successful little league players.
“Everyone knows the worst players ride the bench more than the best players. It’s just another example of the elites in this city paying less and receiving more benefits,” said one South Side parent-coach. “What next? Might they shut down the least performing fields, but exempt the poorest performing North Side parks like Wrigley Field?”
Some asked about selling other kinds of benches, like judicial benches.
“You kidding? Those already are bought and sold by the political factions. That is Illinois’ original Game of Thrones,” Burke said.
SkitSketchJeff is Jeff Burdick, who’d cut in half the misuse of handicap parking placards by banning them outside the East Bank Club, the CTA headquarters building and any high-powered Loop law firm.
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