Mayor Rahm Emanuel vowed Thursday to introduce his own ordinance spelling out how much time a City Council rushed into approving the hated parking meter deal would have to consider privatization deals and how the proceeds would be spent.
A similar privatization ordinance championed by the anti-Emanuel Progressive Caucus has been languishing in a City Council committee for years.
During a forum Thursday on ethics reform and good government issues, Better Government Association CEO Andy Shaw pressed the mayor on why he doesn’t support that ordinance.
Instead, Emanuel said he would introduce a privatization ordinance of his own that would “codify” the process he used to evaluate and ultimately reject privatizing Midway Airport after one of only two bidders left the runway.
“When you look back on the parking meter [lease], there’s a number of things that were wrong. One, the deal. Two, they used the resources to pay ongoing expenses…And the third piece that people had trouble with was the rushing of judgment good or bad on the deal itself,” Emanuel said.
“Those aspects, like we did on the Midway [deal], will be codified, so it’s not based on my intent. But it will be the city law.”
Emanuel was then asked about an ethics reform he claims credit for on his campaign website that the City Council’s two most powerful aldermen — Finance Committee Chairman Edward Burke (14th) and Budget Committee Chairman Carrie Austin (34th) — are resisting.
That is, empowering Inspector General Joe Ferguson to investigate aldermen and their employees and taking the power away from Legislative Inspector General Faisal Khan, who is suing the city. Nearly three dozen aldermen co-signed the ordinance introduced by the mayor’s floor leader. But it’s stuck in committee.
“I get criticized when the City Council is a rubber stamp and now, I’m being told to make them a rubber stamp,” the mayor said.
“I’ve pushed them and I’m clear about where I stand…There are voices that are resistant to giving it to Ferguson . . . We’re not done working through the issues but I’m making my efforts for that. There are other elements of the City Council that are pushing back. But I believe it’s the right thing to do.”
After spending two years in a cold war with Ferguson, Emanuel re-appointed the inspector general and improved the lines of communication to the point where he welcomes and follows the IG’s recommendations.
That cooperation helped the city get out from under the Shakman decree and the costly constraints of a federal hiring monitor, an accomplishment that Emanuel touted Thursday.
Emanuel also drew attention in a news release issued late Thursday that the Chicago Park District is making substantial steps to getting out from under Shakman, too.
At the BGA event, Shaw homed in on the areas where he believes Emanuel has fallen short. He asked, for example, why the BGA has been forced to file lawsuits to get documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act and why the mayor’s public schedule is not more forthcoming about the places he goes and the people he sees.
Emanuel fired back by pointing to the time he spends visiting the homes of parents whose children were gunned down on Chicago streets, like the mother of 16-year-old Demario Bailey.
“You weren’t with me when I went and visited Delores because it’s not my right to invite you. I had to ask her first, even if she wanted me at her home. And I don’t think it’s my right to invite you and then make her loss a media event,” the mayor said.
As for the public records roadblock, Emanuel said, “If I knew about every FOI, I’d be the corporation counsel — not the mayor.”
Emanuel also roundly rejected Shaw’s claim that there has been too little public input preceding pivotal decisions like closing 50 public schools and the mayor’s decision to give movie mogul George Lucas 17 acres of free lakefront park land to build an interactive museum.
The mayor claimed there were 90 public hearings before the schools were closed. And the mayor argued that he disbanded public hearings on the city’s preliminary budget because he’s “doing things with technology.”
The forum ended with the mayor outlining his good government agenda for a second term. It includes: continuing to chip away at the city’s structural deficit; making the switch to online procurement; executing apolitical hiring; improving the city’s data portal so requests can be “personalized” and changing the “culture” of city government to one of service, instead of entitlement.