Mendoza’s deputy gets consolation prize: PBC chief
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Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday ordered, yet another cabinet shuffle triggered by his appointment of political operative Anna Valencia as Chicago’s $133,545-a-year city clerk.
Deputy Clerk Carina Sanchez, the successor favored by former City Clerk-turned-State Comptroller Susana Mendoza, got a powerful consolation prize: executive director of the Emanuel-chaired Public Building Commission.
Sanchez replaces Felicia Davis, the former Chicago Police officer-turned-all-purpose mayoral trouble-shooter who has served Emanuel as deputy chief-of-staff, point person on public safety issues, executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Public Engagement and buildings commissioner.
Sanchez’s salary will be $173,000–the same amount Davis received in that position.
Davis is moving on to “pursue other professional endeavors” the mayor’s office did not disclose. She could not be reached for comment.
The PBC rides herd over construction of schools, libraries, Park District facilities, police and fire stations.
The agency will oversee a bevy of new construction projects financed by a $45 million property tax increase approved by the City Council last year for the sole purpose of school construction.
The plan includes construction of a new high school in Englewood tied to the closure of five-to-seven under-enrolled South Side high schools.
Although city clerk is the job Sanchez wanted and the one Mendoza wanted for her, Mendoza argued Tuesday that the higher-paid PBC job is hardly a consolation prize.
“This is better than my suggestion. At the time I made that suggestion, I did not realize the PBC would be open,” Mendoza said.
“She’s an amazing executive manager. This is an infinitely better job with responsibilities for really changing peoples’ lives. Given the chance to be city clerk or head up the PBC and build new schools, that is definitely a better position.”
Emanuel announced the City Hall shuffle in a press release issued before chairing Davis’ last PBC meeting.
“I thank Felicia Davis for her leadership and service to the PBC, and I am confident that Carina is the perfect fit to continue the progress made in increasing the diversity of our workforce and the quality of our projects,” the mayor was quoted as saying.
Sanchez could not be reached for comment. The press release quoted her as saying she relishes the new opportunity to oversee a Public Building Commission that “plays a critical role in the construction of the places that define our communities,” including schools and parks.
“As the parent of a Chicago Public School student, I feel a very personal commitment to my new position, and I am humbled and honored that Mayor Emanuel has entrusted me with this responsibility,” she was quoted as saying.
Davis has served as the PBC’s executive director since May, 2015, when she was replaced as buildings commissioner by deputy corporation counsel Judy Frydland.
During her 20-month tenure at the PBC, Davis has focused heavily on bolstering minority participation on government projects.
“In March 2011, when Mayor Emanuel asked, I answered the call to join his administration and I’ve never looked back,” Davis was quoted as saying.
“I’ve enjoyed working for the residents of Chicago each day, and I appreciate the mayor’s leadership and his willingness to tackle the big problems.”
Sanchez held down the fort while Mendoza was on maternity leave.
Mendoza had publicly urged Emanuel to appoint Sanchez as her replacement.
The outgoing clerk argued that anybody else would face a “learning curve” that could undermine the reforms she made in an office once embroiled in scandals that culminated in the conviction of two prior city clerks: Walter Kozubowski and James Laski.
“The mayor has so many huge challenges ahead of him in every other aspect of running this city, you really want the office of the city clerk to run in the same fantastic way it was. Why have to re-invent the wheel and learn a whole new process when we already have a person who’s managing it day to day for me?” Mendoza said on the day she bid an emotional farewell to the City Council.
“Chicagoans can go to sleep at night knowing that the office is being managed perfectly. There’s nobody that would be better qualified to run the office.”
Emanuel ignored that advice in favor of Valencia, calling his 31-year-old political operative the “next generation of leadership.”
Tuesday’s City Hall shake-up is the second triggered by Emanuel’s appointment of the new city clerk.
Emanuel had been expected to replace Valencia with her African-American deputy Samantha Fields, a move that would have appeased African-American aldermen who privately staked a claim to the clerk’s job.
Instead, the mayor pulled a switch. He chose Fields as the city’s new commissioner of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection and anointed Maria Guerra Lapacek, who currently holds that job, as Valencia’s replacement.
That allowed the mayor to reward Guerra Lapacek, the runner-up in the clerk sweepstakes, with a job she has long coveted while also elevating a prominent African-American in his cabinet.