Here are few reactions from City Hall and beyond to outgoing Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's final budget proposal, wrapped up from around the web:
"It’s kind of like a homeowner that has to sell their dining room set in
order to pay next month’s rent. It doesn’t sound like a good idea. But
if they don’t get next month’s rent, they don’t have a roof." -- Ald. Ed Burke (14th Ward)
“If you put a band-aid on a bullet wound, you’re going to bleed through it." -- Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th Ward)
"We can no longer deny that we are living beyond our means. We must go
beyond the temporary fixes to confront our structural deficit in a
permanent way." -- Mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel
"By spending money generated on the expectation of
future generations’ revenue, the Mayor’s plans could be nothing more than a bad
payday loan that our children will have to pay back." -- Illinois Public Interest Research Group field director Celeste Meiffren
And Wednesday on WTTW's Chicago Tonight, four aldermen -- two sympathetic to the mayor, two who are much more critical -- weighed in. Watch (the full clip is available here):
Hearings about the 2011 budget start next week in City Hall. For ideas about how the city's budgeting process could be improved, be sure to check out story from earlier this week.
Tomorrow, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley will give the final budget address of his long career, detailing precisely how he proposes closing a gaping $655 million shortfall in the city's main fund. With Daley on the way out, are aldermen ready to contribute more to drafting the city's annual spending plan?
Ald. Scott Waguespack (32rd Ward) introduced a bill at yesterday's meeting of Chicago's City Council that would give aldermen oversight over large city contracts. (Aldermen have had no formal mechanism to review such deals since 1989.) The Procurement Review Ordinance (PDF) says that prior to the final award of all contracts above $500,000, the city's chief procurement officer must send the contract to the council's Committee on Finance, which then has 30 days for review. Procurement gets a chance to respond in writing to issues that come up in committee. Competitively and no-bid contracts are both covered by Waguespack's bill.
Contracting has been a constant source of scandal during Mayor Richard Daley's tenure. Given that council oversight of City Hall contracting is now formally on the table, what agreements inked by the Daley administration could have used an extra set of eyes? Here are three that come to mind:
By the late 1990s, Windy City Maintenance was getting around $13 million annually in City of Chicago business as a certified woman-owned business. But the firm was controlled by the notorious Duff Family, and later the center of a massive investigation by the U.S. Attorney's office here.
Between 1989 and early 2000, the Daley Administration paid the politically connected firm G.F. Structures $55 million for iron fencing and other construction work. The Tribune found that fence deal allowed the company to "regularly charge prices far higher than those in its contract."
Daley was spending some $40 million annually on hauling firms that did little or no work, the Sun-Times revealed in their epic investigation into the mayor's Hired Truck Program.
Outgoing Chicago Mayor Richard Daley is accustomed to seeing his
legislative proposals sail through City Council like a 747 hurrying out
of O'Hare. He isn't used to seeing a council member introduce
legislation that would limit his power over local government operations.
So today's council meeting must have been an especially bad one for
According to the Tribune'sinitial report on the meeting,
an ordinance designed to assist renters facing displacement when a
developer is converting their unit from rental to condo was sent back to
committee. Protests from the real estate development industry sank the bill. That's a
pretty disappointing outcome for legislation that, if passed, wouldn't
even immediately help renters because virtually no rentals are being
converted in condos in the present real estate market, unlike during the middle part of the decade. The city's Condo Conversion Task Force, which met 10 times over a two-year period starting in 2007 and included real estate firms, came up with the recomendations that underlie the proposed bill. "We heard nothing, and then at the last minute. Again, it puts the real
estate industry not in a good light, because this was all discussed
prior," the Tribune reported Daley saying.
Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd Ward), meanwhile, introduced an ordinance today that would allow the council's Committee on Finance to review all city contracts worth more than $500,000. The council has not provided a check over executive-branch contracting since Daley took office in 1989.
Chicago Ald. Robert Fioretti (2nd Ward) is leaving the door open for a mayoral
bid -- even if it's just a crack -- as his volunteers begin gathering
signatures to put him on the ballot for City Council once again.
Chicago Ald. Scott Waguespack, rumored to be considering a mayoral run in 2011, had some harsh words for Richard Daley in a recent interview with the Tribune's John Kass:
"When we had surpluses in the 1990s, you could shower money
everywhere to fix anything. But [Daley] wasn't taking care of the underlying
fiscal infrastructure," Waguespack said. "And as the water went down,
which means the economy, it exposed everything under the pier, just
under the surface, how bad this all was.
"He never prepared for this moment, which any good manager should.
And that's why he's been exposed in some ways as a horrible manager of
the people's taxes."
"The old way no longer works," Waguespack went on to say, repeating a line we first heard during an October 2009 Fox Chicago appearance. You can read Kass' entire column here.
That's Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd Ward), parking meter privatization opponent and rumored Chicago mayoral challenger, speaking
to Bloomberg reporter Darrell Preston over the weekend about the city's
parking meter sell-off. According to documents related to the deal, the
partnership of investors that dished out $1.15 billion to "purchase" the city's meter system is on pace to earn at least $9.58 billion in profits over the next 75 years. All the Morgan Stanley allies
had to do was pay the up-front cost to Mayor Daley, raise the meter
rates marginally, invest about $40 million in capital improvements, and
watch the revenue rush in.
If the council had followed the advice of Waguespack or Ald. Rey Colon (35th Ward), that money could be headed straight into Chicago's coffers. Instead, it's padding the paychecks of politically-connected banks. And future taxpayers will have to cover the loss.