But the parking meters, the parking garages and the highways are.
Read the whole Matt Taibbi piece in Rolling Stone when you get a chance.
But here is the part that pertains to Chicago and shows what a two-bit crook Richard Daley is:
"I was in my office on a Monday," says Rey Colon, an alderman from Chicago's Thirty-fifth Ward, "when I got a call that there was going to be a special meeting of the Finance Committee. I didn't know what it was about."
It was December 1, 2008. That morning would be the first time that the Chicago City Council would be formally notified that Mayor Richard Daley had struck a deal with Morgan Stanley to lease all of Chicago's parking meters for seventy-five years. The final amount of the bid was $1,156,500,000, a lump sum to be paid to the city of Chicago for seventy-five years' worth of parking meter revenue.
Finance Committee chairman Ed Burke had the job of informing the other aldermen about the timetable of the deal. Early that morning he called for a special meeting of the Finance Committee that Wednesday, to discuss the deal. That afternoon the mayor's office submitted paperwork calling for a meeting of the whole City Council the day after the Finance Committee meeting, on December 4, "for the sole purpose" of approving the agreement.
"I mean, they told us about this on a Monday, and it's like we had to vote on a Wednesday or a Thursday," says Colon.
"We basically had three days to consider the deal," says fellow alderman Leslie Hairston.
On that Tuesday, December 2, Daley held a press conference and said the deal was happening "just at the right time" because the city was in a budget crunch and needed to pay for social services.
Mayor Daley, who had already signed similar lease deals for the Chicago Skyway and a series of city-owned parking garages, had been working on this deal for more than a year. He approached a series of investment banks and companies and invited them to submit bids on seventy-five years' worth of revenue on the city's 36,000 parking meters. Morgan Stanley was one of those companies.
Here's where it gets interesting. What Morgan Stanley has to do from there is two things. One, it has to raise a shitload of money. And two, it has to find a public face for those investors, a "management company" that will be presented to the public as the lessee in the deal.
Part one of that process involved the bank's Infrastructure group going on a road tour to ask people with lots of cash to pony up. It was these guys from Morgan's Infrastructure desk who took their presentation to the Middle East and pitched Chicago's parking meters to a room full of bankers and analysts in Abu Dhabi, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, who ultimately agreed to purchase a large stake.
Here's how they pulled off the paperwork in this deal. It's really brilliant.
At the time the deal was voted on in December 2008, an "Abu Dhabi entity," according to the mayor's office, had just a 6 percent stake in the deal. Spokesman Peter Scales of the Chicago mayor's office has declined to date to identify which entity that was, but by sifting through the disclosure documents, we can find a few possibilities, including a group called Cavendish Limited that is headquartered in Abu Dhabi.
Apart from that, most of the investors in the parking meter deal at the time it was voted on look like they were either American or from nations with relatively uncomplicated relationships with America. The Teacher Retirement System of Texas had a significant stake in one of the Morgan Stanley funds at the time of the sale, as did the Victorian Funds Management Corporation of Australia and Morgan Stanley itself. A Mitsubishi fund called Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group also had a stake. There were a variety of other German and Australian investors.
All of these companies together put up the $1.2 billion or so to win the bid, and once they secured the deal, they created Chicago Parking Meters LLC, a new entity, which in turn hired an existing parking management company called LAZ to run the meter system in place of cityrun parking police. The press stories about the deal invariably reported only that the city of Chicago had leased its parking meters to some combination of Morgan Stanley, Chicago Parking Meters LLC, and LAZ. A Chicago Sun-Times piece at the time read:
Under questioning from Finance Committee Chairman Edward M. Burke (14th), top mayoral aides acknowledged that the partnership that includes Morgan Stanley Infrastructure Partners and LAZ Parking recently formed a limited liability corporation in Delaware, but never bothered to register in Illinois.
But two months after the deal, in February 2009, the ownership structure completely changed. According to Scales in the mayor's press office:
In this case, after the Morgan Stanley investor group's $1.15 billion bid was accepted and approved by the City in December 2008, Morgan Stanley sought new investors to provide additional capital and reduce their investment exposure — again, not an unusual move.
So, while a group of several Morgan Stanley infrastructure funds owned 100% of Chicago Parking Meters, LLC in December 2008, by February 2009, they had located a minority investor — Deeside Investments, Inc. — to accept 49.9% ownership. Tannadice Investments, a subsidiary of the government-owned Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, owns a 49.9% interest in Deeside.
So basically Morgan Stanley found a bunch of investors, including themselves, to put up over a billion dollars in December 2008; a big chunk of those investors then bailed out to make way in February 2009 for this Deeside Investments, which was 49.9 percent owned by Abu Dhabi and 50.1 percent owned by a company called Redoma SARL, about which nothing was known except that it had an address in Luxembourg.
To start with something simple, it changed some basic traditions of local Chicago politics. Aldermen who used to have the power to close streets for fairs and festivals or change meter schedules now cannot — or if they do, they have to compensate Chicago Parking Meters LLC for its loss of revenue.
So, for example, when the new ownership told Alderman Scott Waguespack that it wanted to change the meter schedule from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday to 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week, the alderman balked and said he'd rather keep the old schedule, at least for 270 of his meters. Chicago Parking Meters then informed him that if he wanted to do that, he would have to pay the company $608,000 over three years.
The bigger problem was that Chicago sold out way too cheap. Daley and Co. got roughly $1.2 billion for seventy-five years' worth of revenue from 36,000 parking meters. But by hook or crook various aldermen began to find out that Daley had vastly undervalued the meter revenue.
When Waguespack did the math on that $608,000 he was going to be charged, he discovered that the company valued the meters at about 39¢ an hour, which for 36,000 meters works out to $66 million a year, or about $5 billion over the life of the contract.
"When it comes to finding a figure for the citizens of Chicago, they say the meters are worth $1.16 billion," Waguespack said shortly after the deal. "But when it comes to finding a figure to cover Morgan Stanley, they say they're worth, what, $5 billion? Who are they looking out for, the residents or Morgan Stanley?"
The city inspector at the time, David Hoffman, subsequently did a study of the meter deal and concluded that Daley sold the meters for at least $974 million too little. "The city failed to make a calculation of what the value of the parking meter system was to the city," Hoffman said.
What's even worse is this — if they really needed the up-front cash, why sell the meters at all? Why not just issue a bond to borrow money against future revenue collection, so that the city can maintain possession of the rights to park on its own streets?
"There's no reason they had to do it this way," says Clint Krislov, who's suing the city and the state on the grounds that the deal is unconstitutional.
When they asked why the city didn't just do a bond issue, some of the aldermen say they never got an answer.
"You'd have to ask the mayor that," says Colon.
I have an answer to that question.
Because Daley is a crook - a cheap-rate crook.
This selling of infrastructure is the stupidest goddamned thing I have ever seen.
But it's all part and parcel of the "market-based reforms" we are getting in education, the military and elsewhere.
Make sure the oil sheiks in the Middle East and the hedge fund criminals like Whitney Tilson on Wall Street get their taste.
Screw ordinary working and middle class citizens.
The politicians doing this - like Mayor Daley - belong in jail.
Same for the school superintendents like Joel Klein who believe the same privatize the system ideology.
The problem is, both Klein and Daley are lying about their true agenda.
Which is to pay off the real owners of this country - the banks.
Soon the banksters and hedge fund criminals like Whitney Tilson will own it all - the bridges, the roads, the parking meters and garages, the turnpikes, the highways, the school buildings, the military installations.
There will be no government left.
There will be no "public" left.
There will only be the stuff owned by corporations - the infrastructure, the government, and even the people.