Minneapolis approves new parking contract

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Concerned about flagging parking revenues, the City Council on Friday voted to award a three-year contract to a national parking management firm with a reputation for aggressive marketing, ending a 30-year relationship with a local, employee-owned firm.

The city will turn over its parking system–the largest municipally owned system in the country–to AMPCO, which operates the ramps at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and scores of other facilities around the country, and end its relationship with MPI despite concerns voiced by critics that the city has a responsibility to promote local businesses. The city’s parking system “is a profitable business and the people running it are doing a good job,” said Council Member Dean Zimmermann (Ward 6). “Do we want a world dominated by a few multinational corporations, or do we want to promote local business?”

Another critic, Council Member Robert Lilligren (Ward 8) noted that MPI’s bid came in lower than AMPCO’s and suggested that any promises from AMPCO that it would do a better job of marketing the city’s parking ramps is “just speculation.”

It was AMPCO’s marketing ability that convinced Council Member Sandra Colvin Roy (Ward 12) that it was the best choice for the city. She noted that city staff had gone through an extensive process before recommending AMPCO. “It was more extensive than many we undergo in the city,” she said.

Council Member Paul Zerby (Ward 2) agreed, and pointed out that MPI workers would most likely not lose their jobs, since AMPCO has a track record of rehiring parking system employees when it takes over management. Indeed, he said, MPI workers may actually gain a pay raise in the bargain, since AMPCO workers are represented by the Teamsters union and MPI workers are not. “Employees will be in a stronger situation with AMPCO than they are with MPI,” he said.

The vote to award the contract to AMPCO was 9 to 4 in favor, with Natalie Johnson Lee, Barb Johnson, Zimmermann, and Lilligren voting against and Zerby, Colvin Roy, Paul Ostrow, Scott Benson, Don Samuels, Lisa Goodman, Betsy Hodges, Gary Schiff, and Dan Niziolek voting in favor.

In other action today, the council:
• Approved an ordinance that would allow homeless shelter to set their own operating hours and allowing shelters to remain open for 24 hours a day by obtaining a conditional use permit.
• Agreed to transfer the city’s cable franchise from Time Warner to a subsidiary of cable giant Comcast.
• Announced that it would appeal a U.S. district court ruling dismissing its lawsuit against Time Warner Cable.

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