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Rahm Emanuel to put all city assets under one department

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel has decided to merge the city Departments of Fleet Management and General Services to place all city assets — vehicles, buildings and leases — under one roof.

Sources said the new mega-department will be run by David Reynolds, a former deputy environment commissioner now overseeing more than 100 projects in his role as vice-president of real estate services for the Illinois Facilities Fund.

With 517 employees and an annual budget of $102 million, Fleet Management repairs and maintains 12,400 vehicles for the city, the CTA, Chicago Park District and Chicago Housing Authority.

They range from police cars, fire engines and garbage trucks to front-end loaders and street sweepers. The department also operates a network of fueling stations that dispense nearly 4.8 million gallons of conventional and alternative fuels.

General Services negotiates and manages city leases while operating more than 400 government buildings. The department provides everything from custodial, carpentry and painting services to landscaping and security.

Last summer, Mayor Daley said he would seek to privatize the Taste of Chicago, other lakefront festivals and an array of government staples — from animal care to fleet management and curbside recycling — to help erase a $654.7 million budget shortfall.

Instead of privatizing Fleet Management, Emanuel has opted for the merger that will place all city assets under one roof.

The decision to put an engineering and green technology professional in charge follows a steady stream of cronyism controversies at Fleet Management.

In 1998, Daley dumped then-Fleet Management Commissioner Rick Santella after two underlings accused Santella of steering business to perennial city trucking contractor Michael Tadin.

Santella was replaced by Robert Degnan, whose brother, Tim, was Daley’s political enforcer and intergovernmental affairs chief.

The city’s inspector general subsequently accused Fleet Management of improperly policing the Hired Truck program. The inspector general also recommended the firing of an assistant fleet commissioner who allegedly presided over Tadin trucking contracts while his wife and son worked for Tadin-owned Marina Cartage.

Last year, another Fleet Management commissioner, Michael Picardi, served an unpaid, three-month suspension for paying millions to a man who once defrauded the city. Picardi was replaced by Pat Harney, a top mayoral aide once forced out of the CTA after being charged with driving drunk in a CTA car.

Emanuel campaigned on a promise to reduce the size of the city fleet and the amount of fuel those vehicles consume.

He has vowed to save at least $5 million during his first year in office by purchasing more fuel-efficient vehicles and by encouraging city employees to share cars, take bicycles and use mass transit.

Reynolds appears to be the right choice to deliver on those promises.

At the Department of Environment, he was credited with launching the Chicago Center for Green Technology and Green Homes for Chicago. He has also served as a vice-president at EarthTech/AECOM and taught sustainability at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

“Whether it’s alternative fuels or better managing city buildings and managing energy costs, he’ll bring innovation,” said former Chicago Park District Supt. David Doig, who has known Reynolds for 15 years.

It’s the second time this week that Emanuel has talked about merging city departments. He has also vowed to place the Revenue Department in the hands of his new city comptroller.

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