There’s nothing as annoying as someone who tells you “I told you so.” It’s a taunt that’s anything but gracious. So I’ll try to throttle my desire to do just that, but it won’t be easy.
When the Ballard Administration entered into a fifty-year contract to manage the city’s parking meters with a consortium headed by ACS, a lot of us were highly critical. The length of the contract was excessive. ACS had a horrible reputation nationally. There was really no good reason we couldn’t manage our own parking meters (other cities seem capable of doing so) and keep all the profit, rather than giving the bulk of it to ACS. The terms of the contract favored ACS over Indianapolis taxpayers.
Many City-County Councilors shared those criticisms. Even after the administration engaged in considerable reported arm-twisting, the contract was only approved by one vote–and the deciding vote was cast by then-Council President Ryan Vaughn, a lawyer employed by the law firm that represented ACS.
After the new meters were installed, we were treated to a series of press releases–uncritically accepted by the local media–telling us how well everything was going. Revenues were up! (As a cynical friend noted about one of these glowing reports, of course revenues were up; hours had been extended and rates had been raised. For this you need a contractor??)
This week, the Star (finally) examined the numbers, rather than repeating the Administration’s hype. And guess what?
The first year of Indianapolis’ 50-year parking meter lease brought doubled rates in some areas as a tradeoff for a wholesale upgrade of equipment and the convenience of paying by credit card or smartphone.
Was it worth it?
New financial data provided by the city shows its share of revenue from the vendor in 2011 — nearly $1.4 million, or 30 percent — fell well short of the city’s own projection of $2.1 million.
And the city didn’t end up seeing the full amount: After the vendor subtracted $286,000 in charges to compensate for the city closing metered spaces, often for RebuildIndy road construction work, the city pocketed $1.1 million.
The contractor, by contrast, made 3.5 million.
And we’re stuck with this bit of crony capitalism for the next 49 years. Forty-nine years of foregoing 3.5 million plus–money that could be used to pay for paving streets, improving parks or plugging budget shortfalls at IMPD.
This was a very bad deal. And I did tell you so.