Thursday, February 21, 2013

Ballard Gleeful That Indy Motorists Pay Five Times More For Metered Parking Spaces

Mayor Greg Ballard is so excited he just can't hide it. He was boasting to media folks today that his privatization of Indianapolis' parking meter assets has netted city coffers $2.5 million, up from the $339,000 the City netted on parking meter revenues of $1.3 million in 2010. But the windfall for the pay-to-play contractors who won the 50-year deal to operate the City's parking meter assets dwarfed the City's gain. The ParkIndy private consortium pocketed $5.3 million or 70% of the $7.7 million collected in parking meter revenues. Here's Ballard's take on today's news.
These numbers provide further proof that Indianapolis’ parking meter modernization plan was a good move for the city and its citizens,” Ballard said in a news release. “Our city gains more revenue to fund much-needed improvements and building projects in metered parking areas, and motorists benefit from new technology that makes it easier to pay and easier to park in our city.
It's unclear how the Mayor sees today's news as good news for Indianapolis residents. The City's small revenue gain and the private operator's large windfall comes at the expense of city residents and visitors, who are shelling out five times more to park at the City's metered parking spaces than they were pre-privatization. That's mostly attributable to doubled parking meter rates that jumped from .75 cents an hour to $1.50, and expanded hours of operation for parking meters to include evenings and weekends at many metered spaces in downtown and Broad Ripple. ParkIndy collected a staggering $2.1 million in parking fines from motorists compared to the $5.3 million it collected from parking meter fares. Nearly $300,000 came from fees collected for permits and meter closings.

A little-discussed provision of the parking meter deal, which was  awarded to the consortium led by ACS, a politically-connected law firm client of then-Council President Ryan Vaughn (now Deputy Mayor), was a doubling of fines for parking meter violations to $20. The fines are administered by ParkIndy, which provides financial incentives to its so-called "parking ambassadors" to issue as many fines as possible. Some motorists complain that they have been issued three to four parking violations for an expired meter on the same day. Mayor Ballard vetoed an ordinance passed by the City-County Council which would have outlawed the practice of issuing multiple $20 tickets to a motorist for the same parking violation. Many motorists have also complained that parking ambassadors are issuing them tickets when the newly-installed electronic meters still show unexpired time for their parking space. Rumors have circulated that some parking ambassadors are committing fraud on motorists simply to earn incentive income from their employer.

Mayor Ballard boasts that the additional revenues are helping the City pay for "much-needed improvements and building projects." In reality, the money is simply going into a slush fund the Mayor has been using to pass out to his favorite pay-to-play contractors to finance their private development projects. Ballard awarded the first money earned from the privatization to Ersal Ozdemir's Keystone Construction to build a mixed use, parking garage project in Broad Ripple. Ozdemir is one of Ballard's largest campaign contributors, has accompanied the Mayor and his wife on overseas junkets and boasts of frequents visits to the 25th floor offices of the Mayor to provide advice to him. Ozdemir hired Ballard's first chief of staff, Paul Okeson, in a high-paid executive position with his firm, who has not shied away from using his access to the Mayor's office to win sweetheart deals for Ozdemir's firm. The City could have garnered additional revenues and without hitting Indianapolis residents as hard in the pocketbook simply by installing new electronic meters and operating them itself like scores of other cities have done to bolster local revenues.

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