Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Parking Privatization Article Roundup

While I initially thought that I could read through the deal between the City of Indianapolis and Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) for management of publicly owned parking spaces and garages within the city, I was wrong. It is full of legal mumbo-jumbo and is frankly not something I can read through and have a full grasp of. For this, I'll be mainly relying on what others who have read the deal are saying.

Lawyer and blogger Paul Ogden* of Ogden on Politics has written several articles with more to come. In this post, he documents (with page numbers) specific points of the proposed deal. Among those are that Dennison Parking and Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers will still be playing their role as they are now, but ACS will be who they answer to. This concerns me a bit, since ACS is basically handing over a chunk of change per year and keeping the rest, and I'm not sure I'm comfortable with law enforcement officers essentially working for a private company increasing their profit margin while having a paycheck cut by taxpayers.

Also, remember a couple of years ago the formerly great The Indianapolis Star published an exposé on how city employees were abusing permits for free parking in metered spots? A bunch of city employees lost these privileges, and ever since then they've been trying to work around it. Well, it looks like this benefit is coming back, since the contract allows the city to set up special street parking for city, state, and federal employees. And even though the city still owns the parking spaces under this deal, it'll have to fork money over to ACS.

Finally, just like with the Indiana Pacers, the city will rely on ACS to be honest and upfront to provide numbers on finances. There are several parts of the deal that rely on profit margins, and ACS could potentially manipulate these numbers to get the "best" parts of the deal in their favor.

And while defenders of the deal will say "The council still controls meter rates!", it's worth noting that the contract essentially sets out how meter rates should increase. And if the council fails to act, ACS will be compensated.

Finally, Aaron M. Renn has written about similarities between the infamous Chicago privatized parking deal and Indianapolis' deal over at his The Urbanophile blog. Renn, who praised the water utility transfer as "privatize with yourself", is very critical of the ACS contract.

First, he plays with some numbers from the Indianapolis Business Journal to determine how much profit will actually be made versus how much ACS will actually have to spend. He points out the current cost of parking is $845,000 annually, and ACS is estimated to make between $724 million and $1.2 billion over the 50 year contract. I am not a numbers guy, so those that are can go look over his math, but I find the end result quite disturbing.

Second, he notes that the city is not receiving any independent financial advice. The advice they are receiving is from Morgan Stanley, one of the beneficiaries of the Chicago parking boondoggle.

One of the most disturbing points Renn brings up is he claims that the ACS deal is almost a Save As-Copy-Paste edit of the Chicago deal, and that where the deals diverge, it is actually WORSE for Indianapolis.

I've read his whole article several times and am still digesting it, and I suggest you do the same. Jackie Nytes, one of the City-County Councilors on the Democrat side, left a comment thanking Renn for writing this up. I plan to forward the article, as well as Ogden's series of articles, to my representatives and encourage you to do so as well.

In the weeks to come, I'm certain more of the local pundits will weigh in. I gave the city the benefit of the doubt when they held those public meetings a month or so ago. That doubt is now gone. The only aspect of parking that is broken in this city in the lack of it. In much of the deal, the city is taking something that isn't broken and breaking it just for the hell of it.

Finally, some personal insight: Could the city have written a one-sided deal and chosen some other vendor besides ACS? I know Governor Mitch Daniels is enamored by all things Mitch Roob (Roob is a former employee of ACS, and helped ACS score the gig with the failed privatization of the Family Social Services Administration with IBM), I just don't know why people in this state keep going to him for everything. The man led a failed privatization effort with FSSA and is under fire on the lack of public records being published under his management of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation. Failure seems to follow his projects around, and yet our elected officials keep going back to him for advice. Mayor Greg Ballard didn't even consider ACS' involvement with the failed FSSA privatization and seemed puzzled when questioned about it. Do his political advisors just don't know about being judged by the company you keep, or do they not care?

Finally, kudos to Zach Adamson. Adamson is a Democratic candidate for an At-Large on the City County Council in 2011. Adamson has been an outspoken critic of this deal. Can any of the current At-Large representatives say they've even thought about the parking deal as much as Adamson has?

Other posts on the subject:

Advance Indiana

*Full disclosure, Paul Ogden is representing me in a class-action lawsuit against Marion County Traffic Court.

1 comment:

  1. Would you find it helpful to see the two side-by-side with differences highlighted?

    ACS vs Chicago

    Admittedly there are deficiencies in this technique because the lines 'break' in different places, but it makes the differences (er, lack thereof) plainly visible.


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