Wednesday, March 30, 2011

'Public-private' plan to earn more cash from city parking meters has been corrupt for decades

Juan Gonzalez

Wednesday, March 30th 2011, 4:00 AM

City parking meters will generate $165 million this year. Past public-private partnerships to run the meter have been marked by scandal.
Lee/Bloomberg
City parking meters will generate $165 million this year. Past public-private partnerships to run the meter have been marked by scandal.

New York City's parking meters have always been the gold mine that brings forth scandal.

Our parking meters will generate $165 million this year. Even when you subtract the Department of Transportation's costs for a few hundred meter repair and collection agents, and the money it shelled out for new muni meters, net parking income to the city will still surpass $100 million.

That's not counting the nearly $600 million motorists will pay for parking meter tickets.

Simply put, parking meter cash flow makes any Wall Street dealmaker drool.

Back in the 1980s, the Koch administration gave a $22 million contract to a company named Citisource to supply handheld computers for parking enforcement agents. Koch's folks also doled out another contract to an outfit called Datacom to process parking tickets.

Both companies, federal prosecutors later revealed, had bribed scores of city officials to land their contracts.

By the time the Parking Violations Bureau scandal was over, Stanley Friedman, Koch's close ally and head of the Bronx Democratic Party, was in jail, along with his sidekick, Bronx Borough President Stanley Simon, and a handful of others.

Queens Borough President Donald Manes committed suicide before he could be indicted, and their chief prosecutor, Rudy Giuliani, became a hero.

Then in the 1990s, Koch's successor David Dinkins awarded another contract for parking meters. Dinkins chose Lockheed, the company that had acquired Datacom.

He was forced to cancel the contract after the Department of Investigation revealed that Lockheed colluded with other bidders.

The DOI also found several city officials improperly favored Lockheed and that a key City Hall staffer solicited a job with the company during the process.

Now, Mayor Bloomberg is eying a "public-private" partnership for parking meters.

On Monday, the city's Economic Development Corp. got 12 from financial firms seeking to advise Bloomberg on the best way of "unlocking value in existing assets to save money and improve service delivery," says mayoral spokesman Jason Post.

High on the list of such assets are parking meters, along with city-owned garages.

The mayor and his aides say they have no intention of doing what Chicago did a few years ago - getting a big upfront payment to plug an immediate deficit by giving away city parking revenues for 75 years.

City Hall is already using more meters, higher rates and bigger fines to squeeze record payments from motorists.

In fiscal year 2007, there were 70,000 metered spaces that produced only $115 million in revenue. Now there are 80,000 spaces, and the city projects they will generate $192 million for next year.

Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith became a Republican Party star for privatizing government services when he was mayor of Indianapolis.

From 2001 to 2005, Goldsmith was senior vice president of Dallas-based Affiliated Computer Services Inc. Last year, his old firm landed a 50-year contract from Indianapolis to manage all parking meters for that city.

Under the contract, Affiliated even gets the money from tickets written by Indianapolis police. The contract barely passed the Indianapolis City Council by a 15-14 vote.

Given New York's checkered history with parking meters, we need to watch this process very carefully.

jgonzalez@nydailynews.com

Post a Comment