Last year we travelled to Chicago, Ill., which privatized its parking meters in February of 2009 and to the city of Harrisburg, Pa., which is considering leasing its parking facilities to help pay down a staggering amount of municipal debt.
As the year starts, Chicagoans have gotten another reminder of why the parking meter lease has been so deeply unpopular. As Chicago enters the fourth year of its 75-year deal, fees have once again increased. Meter rates have risen from $5.00 an hour to $5.75 an hour in the central business district, effective twenty-four hours a day.
Meanwhile in Harrisburg, the financial fortunes of Pennsylvania’s capital city have become much more complicated. After rejecting the Mayor’s financial recovery plan, the City Council filed for Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy, against the mayor’s wishes. However, a federal court judge has since thrown-out the bankruptcy filing and the state has appointed a receiver, attorney David Unkovic, to take over the Harrisburg’s finances and implement a plan to pay the more than $300 million dollars in debt that the city owes.
Although the City Council rejected a plan to lease the parking system in 2008, a lease or sale of Harrisburg’s parking system, along with the sale of the trash incinerator that is the primary cause of the city’s crippling debt, appears likely to be included in any fiscal plan for Harrisburg. Leasing the parking system for an infusion of money upfront was included in both the State’s and the Mayor’s financial recovery plan.
But the new Harrisburg receiver, who has until February 6 to develop a plan, has pledged to be open-minded regarding city assets in looking for a solution. In an interview with the Patriot-News Editorial Board, receiver Unkovic said, “I am not coming into this with any assumptions. I am willing to hear which assets people think should be sold or leased.” And he added that, “one of my fundamental assumptions is that it is better off for the city if they lease or sell fewer assets rather than more assets.”
Watch our segment from September below: