Mayoral candidate William “Bill” Daley gave two Chicago newspapers opposing opinions of his brother Richard’s most detested deed as Chicago’s mayor: selling the city’s parking meter operations to a private firm for comparative peanuts then quickly blowing all the proceeds. The firm sent parking rates sky-high and now rakes in hundreds of millions of dollars.
In his first version, before entering the Chicago mayoral race, William Daley defended the deal with a strong rationale, lauding it as “good business.” Five months later, as a mayoral candidate, he declared the deal a “mistake” he would not make.
In neither version did he disclose what he — his brother’s most trusted adviser — recommended in the first place. Nor did he happen to mention how his son, William Jr. — Rich’s nephew — profited from the deal.
Here’s the history: In 2008 Mayor Daley leased Chicago’s entire parking meter operation for 75 years to a new venture called Chicago Parking Meter LLC for $1.6 billion. Most of the proceeds went to plug the city of Chicago’s budget gaps. Meanwhile, CPM quadrupled parking rates within a year.
The deal also requires the city to reimburse CPM any revenues lost when metered spaces are closed for street repairs. Last year that rebate was $20 million.
To date CPM has earned nearly $1 billion and its investors will recoup the purchase price by 2021 with 62 years left for profits. Chicago gets nothing but irate parkers paying escalating fees.
CPM is a consortium of three investment firms led by Morgan Stanley, which packaged the deal. Morgan Stanley’s public finance chief is William Daley Jr.
Perish the thought. Selling the city’s underground garages to Morgan Stanley at bargain prices also had nothing to do with familial clout.
On May 9, the senior William Daley published an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune pushing back against Tribune columnist Eric Zorn’s critique of Richard M. Daley’s greatest mayoral failures, including the meter deal.
“Here are the facts,” non-candidate Daley wrote. “The meter system was generating only $19 million a year before the lease was made. The city simply did not have the resources to adequately invest in the antiquated system. The private operator, however, completed a wholesale modernization ahead of schedule.
“The deal also preserved the City Council’s decision-making authority over the meters’ placement, numbers, hours of operation and fees. The transaction enabled the city to deposit an additional $400 million into its long-term reserve.”
He also defended the garage sale: “Without that sale, it is questionable whether Millennium Park could have been finished.
“As with the parking meters, it made good business sense to let an expert operate the parking system under the parks,” he wrote.
Fast-forward to Oct. 27.
Sun-Times City Hall reporter Fran Spielman asks candidate Daley about the meter deal.
“The way they did it was absolutely a mistake,” he answers. “I would not do that deal.”
Spielman noted that Daley’s proposed ethics plan prohibits a mayor’s family from doing any business with the city.
She asks Daley why he didn’t tell his brother that it was the wrong thing to do.
Quoth William Daley: “Because I wasn’t running for mayor at the time.”
Don Rose, a Chicago-based media consultant, was Jane Byrne’s campaign manager during her successful 1979 run for mayor.