Audit notes: Still pro-euro, foreclosures, privatized parking meters

An FT contributor says the UK doesn't want to miss out on that Europe thing

British Labour politician Peter Mandelson takes to the Financial Times to argue that, after all we’ve seen, the UK should still tether itself to the euro down the line. Wow:

Saving the single currency is about to push the 17 states of the eurozone into attempting an ambitious new level of political integration. The UK government itself argues that the eurozone’s future new depends on it following what UK Chancellor George Osborne calls “the remorseless logic” of fiscal and political integration.

The eurozone, to survive, has no alternative but to try to follow that logic. Most other EU states, for reasons that are a mix of conviction and strategic calculus, are likely to follow. The obstacles to this process are legion, but that does not mean it is bound to fail. Nor is it inconceivable that Britain could find itself a decade from now the only state - or at least the only large state - in the EU but outside the Eurozone as a matter of policy. The single currency and the currency zone will be the defining criteria of ‘core’ Europe. Britain would be a European annex. The EU will have been rebooted, with the UK on the outside.

Brad DeLong resurrects his “stupidest man alive award” for Mandelson.

— The Tampa Bay Times reports that banks are canceling scads of foreclosure auctions in Florida, in a bid to avoid flooding the market, but also to avoid fees.

In the last 12 months, lenders have canceled auctions on 4,204 properties in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. Sales have been canceled two, three, even nine times on some homes.

In many cases, banks delay seizures to avoid having to pay maintenance bills or homeowner association fees. Meanwhile, neighbors fend off vandals and thieves and worry about property values falling because of the deteriorating houses.

A little context on how many homes actually sold or were on the market in the last year would have been nice.

The banking lobby disagrees that it’s stalling, of course:

Anthony DiMarco, executive vice president, said lenders are overwhelmed with thousands of foreclosures and aren’t cancelling sales to skirt maintenance and assessments.

“They are trying to move cases forward,” he said. “We’d rather keep people in homes.”

How many of these houses are empty and how many are still occupied?

— In the department of civic debacles, Chicago’s privatization of its parking meters has to rank up there on a list of all-time blunders.

The city sold its parking meters to Wall Street for $1.2 billion in 2009, creating a private monopoly on street parking in the city. Investors have sharply raised the price of parking in Chicago since and collections have skyrocketed.

The Sun-Times reports that Chicago collected $24 million from meters in 2008, the last year they were city-owned. The Wall Street group (with major German and Abu Dhabi investors) collected $83 million last year, and rates went up again at the start of this year. Now it’s demanding another $14 million from taxpayers.

The higher parking prices aren’t inherently a bad thing. But they’re egregious when a public resource is privatized in a sweetheart deal and the new revenue that could have gone to taxpayers is going to investors instead.

Can you use eminent domain on parking meters?

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,