(Chicago, IL) – July 28, 2010. It may be the dog days of summer, but Democratic state senate candidate John Mulroe (D-Chicago) is already on the political attack against GOP opponent Alderman Brian Doherty (R-41) in a race that is shaping up to be the hottest state senate contest in Chicago.
Mulroe yesterday launched a broadside against Doherty criticizing the city council veteran for “his inability to deal with the city’s financial problems” as the city of Chicago’s budget faces a $700 million shortfall.
“His record does not inspire a lot of confidence,” said Mulroe, who is seeking the senate seat recently vacated by State Senator James DeLeo on Chicago’s north west side. “People in my community might be looking at layoffs because of these severe budget problems, and that’s not right.”
Specifically, Mulroe is targeting Doherty’s support of Mayor Richard Daley’s deeply unpopular parking meter lease deal which has sent parking fees skyrocketing.
“Selling our parking meters was a bad move, but already raiding nearly 85% of the money from the reserve fund that was supposed to last for 75 years was even worse,” said Mulroe.
The company which leased the meters, Chicago Parking Meters LLC, paid the city $1.16 billion up front, but the money is now nearly exhausted, including the $400 million “long-term reserve” designated to replace the city’s lost meter revenue. Only $177.4 million from the deal remains.
Doherty voted for the lease.
“As an accountant, I could not justify spending money that was supposed to be saved,” Mulroe added. “This is one of the key problems with our elected officials right now: if the money is supposed to saved, then save it.”
Of the $771.3 million of lease money in the bank as of March 31, 2010, $543.9 million will be used to plug the city’s 2010 budget deficit.
Asked to respond to Mulroe’s attack, Doherty responded, “If possible, I’ll give you a response tomorrow.” Tomorrow never came by our deadline.
One of Doherty’s city council colleagues illustrates the political problem of the 75-year lease.
“It’s a horrible situation the mayor has created,” Alderman Scott Waguespack (D-32) said this week. “The economy is extremely bad. People are suffering …”
And the unpopularity of the parking meter deal is reflected in a new Chicago Tribune poll which reported this month, “Four out of five voters surveyed disapprove of Daley’s handling of the parking meter lease.”
Mulroe is obviously attempting to tap that vein of voter discontent in Chicago.
“We have serious financial problems in Illinois and we need people that can be trusted to do the right thing with our hard-earned money,” said Mulroe, alluding to the meter lease.
To repel Mulroe’s attacks on his parking meter vote, Doherty will need push his traditional “fiscal conservative” message hard to voters, but he has little money at the moment for direct mail with only $18,991.45 in his campaign warchest as of June 30, 2010—compared to $32,016.64 for Mulroe.
It may be the dog days of summer, but there are only 96 days until November 2—and the meter is running.