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Chicago Parking Meters Scandal: A Case of Eminent Domain

By:  Mac-Z Zurawski

Many a time I have found myself watching my clock while at lunch or dinner.  You ask why?  I would be parked at a meter and didn’t want to be ticketed or towed.  This opinion isn’t a plain Jane argument over public parking which usually includes the hassle of having change for meters, too many valet only, loading only or even the infamous handicapped spot that is being used by an abled bodied person.  I am a resident of Chicago paying up to $7.00 an hour to park on the same streets that I support through shopping taxes, city taxes, take-out taxes and the list forever goes on.  It’s about the privatization of a desperately needed source of income.  Chicagoans have been in a furor over the billion dollar parking deal between City of Chicago government and Chicago Parking Meteres, LLC that siphoned public monies away again.  Where are the needs and compensation of the citizens of Chicago inside this deal? 

I am revisiting the subject due to the new uses for eminent domain.  The Fifth Amendment legalizes the public takeover of private land (Hill, 2005).  What about the opposite?  Our public land, profits and rights to public property were handed over in the parking meter deal.  After years of legal battles over public takeovers a little known movement and law regarding privatization of public use of lands has occurred: eminent domain for citizens.  The four required elements of the law are intact in the parking meters deal: private property, taking, public use and just compensation.  Private property: the parking meters are the private property of the City of Chicago residents as we fund the city.  If possession is 9/10ths of the law, then we possess this city.  The majority of Chicago residents use and support the meters through privately funding them when paying for parking.   Taking: the public meters were taken from the residential financial stabilization formation of our city budget and given to a private company to profit from.  The company has gone as far as to replace the majority of the meters that we had already paid for with new machines.  Public use: the meters are used for the public to use to create profits for parking.  Just compensation: Chicago Parking Meters, LLC is continuously compensated for taking over the meters from handicapped parking to new laws governing “no free Sundays”.  This compensation is the crux of the case for Chicago residents. 

The City government accepted a deal for the privatization of parking meters which were the property of city residents.  The City had an interest in our property and used it for a one time lump sum profit.  Mayor Rahm Emmanuel revisited the contract and allowed even more eminent domain violations when he created, politicked and pushed the passage of a “no free Sundays” clause (Dardick and Byrne, 2013).  Instead of creating new avenues for revenue, Emmanuel is handing even more money to private companies without compensating the public residents.  Again, where is the compensation for the Chicago residents for taking our meters?  We the people support the City by and through creating businesses, inner-city tourism and much more that consistently support the finances of the City.  We pay taxes, private school tuition, business taxes, shopping taxes; you name it and we pay it.  We have a direct interest in the funding of our meters. 

I propose that the City of Chicago government renegotiate the contract with the Chicago Parking Meters ,LLC in the interests of the residents whose private interests in the parking meters has not been compensated.  Our financial security has been taken by the public hand of our government in the interest of a private company.  We need a separate fund created by CPM that is guarded and run by a City resident created and supported board to distribute the funds to blighted areas.  The parking meters compensation fund could create community centers, infrastructure repair, school funding and much, much more.  My opinion is a call to the residents that the political haggling and near Rico statute violation parking deal must be amended.  Please support yourselves, neighborhood and neighbors by opposing this deal and insisting on a separate compensation fund.  Political action is needed.  Heed the call. 

Dardick, Hal and John Byrne.  Chicago aldermen approve Emanuel’s parking meter changes.” Chicago Sun-Times.  05 June 2013.  Web edition. doi:

Hill, Gerald and Kathleen Hill. “Eminent Domain.”  The Free Dictionary by Farlex. doi:

Mac-Z Zurawski is an adult educator in Political Science (M.A. and B.A.), sociology and justice studies.  Her active goals are to bridge the gap between dreams and reality for her students, neighbors and nation through education.  Her extensive activism, education and more articles can be viewed at ,, LinkedIn profile at, and at She is available for educational endeavors including adult education courses, seminars, consulting and curriculum development. Please contact her on any of the above sites. 



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