Aldermen react to inspector general's budget report

Some Chicago alderman are concerned about the timing of a new budget report by the city's corruption watchdog.

October 25, 2010

Emily Wilensky

Flickr/Jeffery C. Johnson

Inspector General Joseph Ferguson's report laid out 24 ways to slash municipal spending. Alderman Ed Burke chairs the city council's finance committee. He took issue with a number of Ferguson's cost-cutting ideas, including doing away with a subsidized sewer service for the elderly. The Inspector General's report says eliminating the subsidy would save more than $5 million. The elimination of the sewer subsidy garnered little support among aldermen, though many said they needed more time to properly review the report.

Alderman Ray Suarez chairs the Housing and Real Estate Committee; he said some of the reports suggestions such as eliminating property tax relief grants and home buying assistance for police officers would have consequences for struggling neighborhoods where more police presence is helping. One idea Alderman Suarez said he would support was the option to privatize the city's blue cart recycling program.

28th ward alderman Ed Smith had harsher words for the Inspector General, saying he should "do his job and let the aldermen focus on the budget." Chicago Budget Director Eugene Munin shared this sentiment in a statement responding to Ferguson's report. Echoing many aldermen, Munin expressed his concerns about why the ideas weren't proposed when budget discussions began back in May. Munin also expressed doubt as to whether it was appropriate for a government watchdog to get involved with the budget; a responsibility he said belongs to the mayor and his administration.

The Inspector General's report lists $247 million in potential cuts to city services and infrastructure, many of which Munin said would violate existing collective bargaining agreements. Jonathan Davey, a spokesman for the Inspector General, said the report was part of an effort to "promote efficiency and effective government." He said similar reports put out by other government oversight agencies, like New York City's Independent Budget Office, were used as a model.