Three aldermen and City Clerk Susana Mendoza put on a dog-and-pony show at City Hall Thursday, rolling out dollies loaded with big black binders full of “audits.”
The goal of this show and tell?
To defend Mayor Rahm Emanuel and to attack his challenger, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.
Except, if you look closely, you’ll find they were actually making Garcia’s point.
Garcia has been arguing that he can’t advance a plan to solve the city’s terrible finances until there have been comprehensive performance audits of critical city departments like police and fire. Something that, he argues, hasn’t been done.
“Baloney!” cry Mendoza and aldermen Brendan Reilly (42), Michele Smith (43), and Ameya Pawar (47), pointing to the piles of audit books stacked in front of the cameras.
Let’s have a look.
Most of the audits, done by outside accounting firms, are little more than a balancing of government’s checkbooks. “These are financial audits that make sure the numbers add up, not whether the budgets are viable or the departments are performing well,” said 32nd Ward Ald. Scott Waguespack.
Waguespack wasn’t invited to the dog-and-pony show because he’s one of the few aldermen knowledgeable enough and brave enough to speak truth to power in Chicago. And he’s a Garcia supporter.
Amazingly, Mendoza and trio invoked an unlikely guardian angel for verification of their claims. They solemnly declared that Inspector General Joseph Ferguson, the watchdog the regulars love to hate, had done “25 performance and program audits . . . since 2011.”
But Ferguson’s audits were done often in spite of, not because of, the Emanuel administration. And if you read his reports closely, you’ll notice certain city departments simply ignore his recommendations.
Not noted in those audit books is that the mayor’s office has allowed all-powerful Ald. Ed Burke (14th) to keep the workers comp system locked behind Burke’s Finance Committee fortress walls, even though the mayor’s own people know there are millions of dollars to be saved there.
Not noted in those audit books are the repeated requests by a few independent aldermen for an administration-initiated accounting of $100 million a year in police overtime.
Inspector general spokesperson Rachel Leven on Thursday confirmed, “We are not aware of any (CPD or CFD timekeeping audits) having been done.” But the IG’s 2015 audit plan makes clear timekeeping and payroll in those departments are “key risk areas.”
So, Garcia is correct.
We have not been allowed to see inside the numbers to judge what efficiencies might save us cash and spare us taxes.
But Garcia does himself absolutely no favors by woodenly repeating that he has to”study” things before offering “specifics.”
Although millionaire Republican businessman Bruce Rauner offered no specifics but was elected governor anyway, voters saw him as a numbers guy. Garcia, a commissioner and activist, gets no such pass.
The Rahm message machine, fueled by mega-rich donors, at the moment is running the table on Chuy.
This is the big league.
Garcia better quickly up his game. And slug his way out of the minors.
Otherwise, he won’t be making it to The Show.