Council approves mayor's $1 billion O'Hare bond plan
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter
Mayor Daley's plan to issue $1 billion in bonds retired by an airline ticket tax and other airport revenues to complete his massive O'Hare Airport expansion project ran into some brief turbulence Tuesday - and it had nothing to do with continued opposition by United and American Airlines.
A parade of aldermen led by powerful Finance Committee Chairman Edward M. Burke (14th) said they are not prepared to give the mayor a "blank check" by approving the borrowing plan when city contractors are thumbing their noses at an ordinance that requires them to fill 50 percent of their jobs with Chicago residents.
But after all the huffing and puffing, the Finance Committee wound up approving the $1 billion borrowing plan, while Daley was upstairs announcing he would not seek re-election.
Before that vote, Burke doubted that 50 percent of the jobs created by the massive runway expansion project have been filled by Chicagoans.
"I would bet if you looked through that list of addresses of employees that you wouldn't find any from the 14th Ward. You wouldn't find any from the 23rd Ward. You wouldn't find any from the 12th Ward. In all likelihood, you wouldn't find any from the 27th Ward or 28th Ward," Burke said.
"What our voters are telling us is, We want jobs.' Today they read . . . about a billion dollars that's gonna be spent and you know what they say- I ain't getting a job out there. My neighbor isn't getting a job out there.' And come February, we're gonna have to go back to them and ask them to vote for us. And you know what they're gonna say- Why should I vote for you. You gave $1 billion to some outfit located in Omaha, Nebraska.' "
Under questioning by Burke at an Aviation Committee meeting, Aviation Commissioner Rosemarie Andolino could not say how many of the jobs involved in the runway expansion project to date were filled by Chicagoans.
She would only say that an audit function once performed by the Department of Procurement Services was recently transferred to the Office of Compliance and that payrolls are supposed to be audited before contracts are "closed out" and contractors are paid.
Burke was not appeased.
"It's too late by the time they close out the deal because our constituents need jobs. Jobs, jobs, jobs. And what you're hearing today is born of frustration," the alderman said.
"I don't think the members of the City Council are prepared to give a blank check of $1 billion unless we can see that our voters, our constituents, are benefitting. I know the argument about how important it is to the region. . . . It's vitally important. It's the economic engine that drives the whole Midwest. But either we have an ordinance that says 50 percent of employees have to reside in the city, or we don't."
Andolino said a majority of the jobs available are for heavy equipment operators.
"Those people are employed from the union halls. . . . They have their process in terms of moving people into work. They go by seniority. We don't have control over that," she said.
Burke countered, "The people who vote for me don't want to hear excuses. They want action. They want jobs."
Ald. Tom Allen (38th) added, "The word on the street . . . is that there's no audits. Nobody follows the payroll and the license plates [of the workers] are from Indiana and Wisconsin. I know this is a tough thing for you to police. But somebody's got to police it. . . . There's no way we've got 50 percent Chicago residents working there."
The Aviation Committee postponed approval of an ordinance that would annex property in Bensenville.