Chicago’s New Billboard Deal All But Signed

Kudos to Alderman Bob Fioretti:

A Chicago City Council committee signed off Monday on Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s latest privatization deal—even though, after nearly five hours of testimony, aldermen still didn’t quite know how it added up for taxpayers, what its shortfalls might be, or exactly which companies were included in putting it together.

In more than a few places, they weren’t even sure what the contract said.

“As I tried to go through these documents over the weekend, I have to admit, I don’t really have the expertise to understand them,” said Ed Burke, who’s read a few contracts in more than four decades as an alderman and attorney.  …

As they explained, the deal involves renting out public space to a private billboard company in return for some of the proceeds. The firm, Interstate JCDecaux, will pay to put up digital billboards on 34 sites along expressways in Chicago. In return, the city will collect a guaranteed $155 million over the next twenty years, with an option to extend it for nine more.The city will also get a share of the advertising revenues—though there are pages of complex formulas and footnotes that determine the exact amount. For example, taxpayers will essentially pay back some of the millions they’re receiving up front, since over time Interstate JCDecaux will recoup the costs of building and maintaining the billboards before sharing proceeds with the city.  …

“Was there any independent financial analysis for this particular proposal?” asked 46th Ward alderman James Cappleman.”Not directly,” said Scott.  …

But the guaranteed payouts are far below that—the most per year is $15 million, in 2013.

And this is where the fun starts…

But Alderman Robert Fioretti (2nd) messed everything up by asking for a head count to see if they had a quorum.

This was a shocking development, as committee meetings regularly proceed without anything close to half their members present, which is technically what they’re supposed to have. But under the council rules it doesn’t matter unless a member of the committee raises a stink about it.

Such stink raising is not common.

In fact, Carrie Austin, chair of the budget committee, wasn’t deeply irked that such a disgraceful thing was happening on her watch. She tried to turn Fioretti to stone with an infuriated stare. “I find it awful strange that you would call a quorum now, after you know so many people have left.”

“I think it’s entirely appropriate,” Fioretti replied, plopping down in his seat as if to say, what are they going to do—map me out of my ward?

Austin recessed the committee and, along with mayoral aides, got on the phone to round up some more warm bodies.

A half hour later the roll was called again, and 23 aldermen were counted as present and more-or-less awake—one more than needed for a quorum, and plenty more than needed to sign off on the billboard deal. It passed 20-3, with only Fioretti, Waguespack, and Pawar opposing.

via Chicago Reader.

This is going to be the parking meter deal redux.  Just you wait.  We’re going to have digital advertising everywhere and the city is going to get a mere $15 million a year.  JCDecaux is going to make 4 or 5 times that.

This is a farce.  In a few years Rahm is going to ask JCDecaux for a “favor” and they’re going to do it.  It’s all connected, and corrupt.