Chicago City Council member Brendan Reilly said this week he has consulted with public finance experts in an exploration of how the city could finance a buy back of the parking meter system from private operators.
The aldermen said in a televised interview that the city could possibly issue tax-exempt debt repaid with meter revenues. The cost to purchase back the 36,000 slot system could easily run more than $2 billion. The private operators paid $1.15 billion for the 75-year lease in 2009.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration has panned the option because of the cost. The much-maligned privatization deal is disliked because of operational problems that occurred in the transfer, skyrocketing rates, and former Mayor Daley's use of nearly all the proceeds to balance his last few budgets.
The lease continues to give the current administration a headache due to the private operators' demands under the lease for compensation for lost revenue from meters taken out of service.
Amendments to the lease recently negotiated by the city and private operator Chicago Parking Meters LLC revise how those figures are calculated. The city claims the amendments will save it $1 billion over the remaining 70 year lease. The amended lease is pending City Council approval. As part of the settlement, the city will pay the CPM $63.8 million in claims for lost revenue.