July 28, 2014
The political détente between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the corruption-fighting inspector general he inherited, which prompted the mayor to reappoint Joe Ferguson, hasn’t stopped Ferguson from holding Emanuel’s feet to the fire.
That much was obvious Monday when Ferguson accused the mayor’s Department of Transportation of failing to meet its self-imposed deadlines for pothole and streetlight repairs and exaggerating its performance by failing to report 53 percent of all requests for those pivotal city services.
“Inaccurate or incomplete reporting of performance data as found here may undermine the very public confidence and trust that transparency mechanisms intend to foster,” Ferguson wrote on a day when the record-setting deep freeze turned the spotlight on city services.
“We are, therefore, encouraged by CDOT’s responsiveness to assuring that the public gets complete and accurate information about its delivery of core services.”
In a statement, CDOT spokesman Peter Scales said the department uses “weekly management reports” to monitor its own performance and is working to “improve the accuracy of the data” it provides to the public.
Ferguson could not be reached for comment. Last summer, Ferguson accused the Emanuel administration of stonewalling an audit aimed at verifying Emanuel’s revised, $18 million savings claim from the switch to a grid system for collecting the city’s garbage.
Emanuel has a history of over-promising, exaggerating his performance and making bold savings and efficiency claims that cannot be verified.
Now, the inspector general is making a similar claim about the most basic of city services CDOT provides: pothole and streetlight repairs.
After auditing 311 requests in five key service areas over a three-year period, Ferguson concluded that “at least 26 percent” of potholes were not filled within the seven-day time frame established by CDOT and “at least 24 percent” of broken streetlights were not repaired within the department’s self-imposed, four-day deadline.
CDOT sets a 90 percent completion rate within its self-imposed deadlines for five key types of service and managed to meet those goals for traffic light, pavement cave-in and stop sign repairs over a three-year period covered by the audit.
But the department did not meet its self-imposed targets for pothole and streetlight repairs in any of the three years examined.
In addition, the inspector general found that CDOT exaggerated its performance on pothole and streetlight repairs by failing to report 53 percent of actual service requests — 44,249 in 2012 — on a website that maintains a so-called “service delivery metrics.”
A companion “data portal” that’s supposed to keep the public fully informed “did not provide any information on traffic lights, pavement cave-ins and stop signs,” the inspector general said.
CDOT claims the omitted data was an “unintended consequence” of changes made during the design of the report. Those changes “essentially filtered out all long response time outcomes.” The department recently launched an “independent performance tracking tool” on its website, the inspector general said.
Emanuel has implemented a tracking system to make calling 311 to get a pothole filled or a tree trimmed more like using FedEx to send a package. He has also dumped massive amounts of information on the Internet in a quest for government “transparency.”
The mayor’s December 2012 executive order requires city departments to publish and update statistics on a so-called “data portal” that now includes at least 283 “unique data sets and hundreds of derivative” forms of that information.