Mayor’s “Online Budget Challenge” Forces Players to Pick Privatized Parking

Hat tip to reader Ryan Lehman

Privatizing public parking has been referred to in some circles as "the outsourcing of political will" to raise parking fees.  In short, because politicians don't have the spine to raise parking fees, they sell or lease their parking meters and garages to the highest bidder.  The city has a one-time payment, usually used to fund a related transportation project, and the proud owner of public parking makes a windfall profit over the life of the lease.

Ever since Mayor Villaraigosa first announced his intent to lease the city's parking meters and garages to temporarily plug the city's budget hole, the news for supporters of privatized parking has not been good.  Because of the recession, the money to pay for "public-private partnerships" is drying up driving the money that a city can expect for a transportation structure down.  Conversely, in Chicago, the other major American city to privatize, their parking dollars were basically stolen in the name of "public-private partnerships" by the buyer who is getting rich off what should be public funds.

But that isn't stopping the Mayor from keeping up his public relations campaign.

The city's website now features an interactive "game" called the Los Angeles Budget Challenge.  Basically, in an effort to "educate" voters and residents on how hard it is going to be for our elected leaders to balance the budget, "players" are asked to make decisions on a series of possible "cuts" and "revenue enhancements" and the site shows you how your decisions can help close the city's $400 million budget chasm for the 2011 fiscal year.

There's just one problem, it's impossible to close the budget in the game without privatizing public metered parking, garage parking, or both.  In politics, this tactic is called a "push poll."  Instead of actually seeking input, it would appear the point of this series of questions is to push the idea that selling the rights to collect city meter revenues is the holy grail that will magically fix our budget.  There is, of course, no reference to the cost in terms of development or long term fiscal losses that the city will endure under any privatization scheme.

Streetsblog isn't the only journalist to note the city's attempt to push parking privatization through the Budget Challenge.  City Watch Greg Nelson writes:

I had the pleasure of meeting him at a national conference in New Hampshire last year and we’ve stayed in contact.  I’m even his Facebook friend.

Tim took the budget survey and noted that if the responders are too achieve the goal of closing the city’s estimated budget deficit, it can’t be done by selecting all of the proposed cost cutting measures. 

The survey is designed so that we must agree to entering into a public-private partnership agreement for at least the city’s parking structures.

Parking privatization isn't the only Livable Streets Issue that is discussed in the challenge.  After the jump you can see screen shots of questions on open space, transportation funding, parking privatization, and parking fees.

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