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NOV 19 - NOV 26, 2015

Desman's Chicago Parking Plan a Nightmare for Windy City Taxpayers

Mike Hudson

NOV 19, 2015

A quick visit to Mayor Paul Dyster’s handpicked parking consultant Desman and Associates website finds the company boasting about the important role it played in the privatization of parking meters in the city of Chicago.

“Working with Morgan Stanley and the rest of the team, Desman provided due diligence efforts and technical advisory services in support of Morgan Stanley’s successful bid for the 75 year lease concession for the Chicago Metered Parking System,” the website states. Desman projected both the short-term and long-term impact of changes in parking demand and operations on the revenue and expenses of the parking system over the lease period.”

Why Desman would be bragging about its’ participation in the scheme is curious. Those wanting to park their cars on Chicago streets found the rates had gone up as much as fourfold once the plan was implemented. 

Meters jammed and overflowed when they couldn't hold enough change for the new prices. In other areas, new electronic meters had been installed, but many of them didn't give receipts or failed to work entirely. And free parking on Sundays was a thing of the past.

The meter plan sparked mass outrage in Chicago. There were protests and attempts to organize a boycott. But the city had leased its 36,000 meters to a private Morgan Stanley-led consortium in exchange for $1.2 billion in up-front revenue. The length of the lease was 75 years.

And if the meter situation seemed like a bad deal for Chicago's parkers, it would soon become clear that it was an even worse one for the city's taxpayers.

An inspector general's report found that the deal was worth almost $1 billion more than the city had gotten for it. Not only would the city never have a chance to recoup that money or reap new meter revenue for three-quarters of a century, clauses buried in the contract required it to reimburse the company for lost meter revenue.

The city was billed for allowing construction of new parking garages, for handing out disabled parking placards, for closing the streets for festivals. The current bill stands at $61 million.

And if all that wasn’t bad enough, some of those involved in the deal are now the target of a federal bribery investigation.

The Desman parking plan in Chicago has been an utter disaster. Bad for those who have to use it, awful for the taxpayers and, in all likelihood, corrupt.

In its’ wake, it’s hard not to wonder what it was about the company that attracted Dyster?

Dyster, who enthusiastically backed Mayor Irene Elia's parking program as a member of the City Council in the early years of the new century, has apparently swallowed completely Desman's incredibly optimistic projection of $1 million in new revenue annually.

The offices of Desman Associates are located on North Clark Street in Chicago. Ironically it was in a parking garage on North Clark Street that nine men associated with the Irish North Side Gang were lined up and gunned down in the infamous St. Valentine's Day Massacre of 1929.






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