Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to give his chief procurement officer sweeping new powers to share the wealth instead of allowing a handful of contractors to dominate city business.
At an action-packed City Council meeting Wednesday dominated by the mayor’s plan to impose a utility tax to save the city’s largest pension fund, Emanuel introduced a series of ordinances that would grant sweeping new powers to Chief Procurement Officer Jamie Rhee.
Under the first proposal, the city would be “divided into multiple geographic districts” for the purpose of awarding city contracts.
“The Chief Procurement Officers shall have the sole authority to determine the maximum number of contracts that may be awarded to any single contractor” in those districts, the ordinance states.
The mayor’s office offered no immediate explanation for the dramatic change with potential to make it difficult for a handful of clout-heavy construction contractors big enough to under-bid the competition to dominate city business, particularly in black and Hispanic neighborhoods.
Nor did the mayor’s office explain how the “maximum” number of contracts would be determined in any given district.
The proposal comes at a time when Emanuel is trying mightily to shed the “Mayor 1 percent” label and convince African-American voters angered by his handling of the Laquan McDonald shooting video that his development efforts are not downtown-centric and that their impoverished neighborhoods are not being left behind.
Last week, black, Hispanic and progressive white aldermen joined forces to protest a shortage of minority contractors at O’Hare International Airport and on city bond issues; they did so by managing to temporarily derail a $3.5 billion bond issue that Emanuel plans to use to bankroll a new runway and international terminal improvements at O’Hare.
A resolution introduced by Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus, may go a long way toward explaining the mayor’s motivation for the share-the-wealth plan.
It calls for the Finance Committee to hold hearings on the “minority recruiting and employment practices at all companies” holding city contracts.
The hearings would also examine the “adequacy and efficacy of the minority recruiting and employment practices of the city and its major agencies awarding contracts “including, but not limited to” the city Departments of Transportation, Water Management, Streets and Sanitation and Procurement Services” as well as at O’Hare and Midway Airports.
The contracting maximum is not the only new power Emanuel wants to give to his chief procurement officer.
The mayor introduced yet another ordinance that would empower Rhee to “enter into contracts with more than one vendor for the provision of goods, work or services to address” city emergencies.
The dollar limit on that emergency spending — without competitive bidding — would also be raised to $250,000 “for each contract.”
Yet another ordinance introduced by the mayor would broaden Rhee’s sweeping power to prohibit companies from doing business with the city if those same companies have landed on the debarment list of any other government agency – meaning they are banned from doing business with that agency.
The proposed ordinance states: “No person or business entity shall be eligible to do business with the city if that person or business or any controlling person of such business entity has been de-barred by any local, state or federal agency from doing business with that government agency.”
The company would continue to be sidelined from city business for as long as the ban remains in effect at any other government agency.
It was not known what precipitated of motivated the crackdown.