Parking meters going private?
Fightback grows against Bloomberg scheme
||Local 1455 member Marlon Sealy is busy collecting money from one of the 90,000 parking meters the mayor wants to turn over to the private sector.
By ALFREDO ALVARADO
Local 1455 members will bring in up to $125 million in net revenue this year from the city's parking meters, yet Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is still aiming to farm out their jobs to the private sector. Union leaders, City Council members and City Comptroller John Liu are determined to stop the mayor's latest contracting-out scheme.
Bloomberg's privatization plan would cost motorists more, reduce revenue to the city treasury and lay off union members, said DC 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts.
Meters in good shape
"We are at a loss to understand why the mayor would want to move forward with privatizing parking meter collections," Local 1455 President Mike DeMarco said July 30 at a news conference on the steps of City Hall. "We are here today to urge him to put this scheme to rest."
The local represents the City Parking Equipment Service Workers, who collect the money, and Traffic Device Maintainers, who install, maintain and repair the meters. The city has nearly 90,000 metered parking spaces.
The deadline for responses to a request for qualifications issued to private companies seeking to operate the city's parking system was July 31.
An efficient system
At the press conference, DeMarco was joined by dozens of union members and elected officials who delivered the same message to the mayor: "If it's not broken, don't fix it."
At City Hall July 30, Local 1455 Pres. Michael DeMarco is joined by DC 37 Assoc. Director Oliver Gray, Comptroller John Liu, City Council members and union members to tell the mayor that contracting out union jobs is a big mistake.
"The system works," said Manhattan City Council member Ydanis Rodriguez. "The current workers are doing a great job."
Local 1455 members took over parking meter collection services in the late 1980s, after a scandal in which private meter collectors stole $1 million in quarters over a three-month period. Some 35 people were arrested and the private company was charged with bribing city officials.
City Comptroller John Liu spoke against the mayor's contracting-out plan. "The bottom line is that the parking meters are well run as they are. It's a good efficient system," Liu said at the news conference. According to Liu, the $125 million in net revenue the system earns for the city represents a profit of 65 percent.
James Vacca, chair of the City Council Transportation Committe, also expressed his opposition to the plan. "I see no reason to outsource this work when the men and women of DC 37 have a proven track record of doing a good job of collection and maintenance," he said. "The fact that 95 percent of our parking meters are in good working order speaks for itself."
Vacca also predicted that parking costs would increase if the privatization plan is implemented.
"You would think we would have learned our lesson," said Brooklyn City Council member Letitia James, referring to the contracted-out CityTime payroll project, now a symbol of waste, corruption and overspending.
Learn from Chicago
James also suggested that the city hire more workers to meet community needs and expand the local economy. "This should be the first thing on their minds, not laying people off," she said.
DeMarco suggested that Bloomberg should learn from Chicago's meter privatization fiasco.
In 2008, the city of Chicago privatized its 36,000 parking meters in a widely criticized deal that allowed the Chicago Parking Meters LLC company to keep all revenues for 75 years until 2084 in exchange for a one-time payment. Under the deal, parking rates have increased significantly and the company has even dared to bill the city for doing street repairs and holding festivals because these reduced parking meter revenue.
— Public Employee Press, September 2012