Opposition grows to IU proposal to lease parking

Opposition is growing among Indiana University faculty and staff to a proposal to lease campus parking spaces in exchange for a multimillion-dollar payout.

A petition drive is circulating among IU employees who oppose the idea of leasing the university's Bloomington and Indianapolis parking operations to a private operator.

Communication Workers of America Local 4730 president Edward Vasquez said the union has gathered the signatures of hundreds of faculty and staff on the petition, which questions whether an IU lease would bring a loss of price controls, service and jobs.

IU proposed the lease idea earlier this year after Ohio State University did the same for an up-front payment of $483 million on a 50-year lease to a private operator.

Communications and culture professor Phaedra Pezzullo told The Herald-Times for a Sunday story that she happily distributed the petition to IU's Progressive Faculty Council and beyond.

"The petition is a clear and compelling statement about when selling off, the university sells out the people who study and work at the university," she said.

Pezzullo added that if the university would put "faculty, staff and students who drive to campus in a less secure position" if it gave up its function of collecting parking fees from faculty, staff and students.

The IU trustees on Thursday will hear from a committee that's drawing up the proposed specifications the university would seek in a parking lease.

Trustee William H. Strong, an executive for the global Morgan Stanley financial services firm, first raised the issue during a February meeting. He pointed to his firm's involvement in the Ohio State lease and suggested that leasing "concessions," such as parking, could provide IU with immediate cash.

John B. Gilmour, a professor at the College of William and Mary, authored a recent report in an academic journal about leasing public facilities to private firms. He said in an interview that parking leases might remove a revenue stream for future university officials.

"One of the things that bugs me about these transactions is that if the university were willing to raise the parking fees itself it could capture more value, but maybe not all immediately," he said. "You get a short-term reprieve and create another problem in the long run."

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