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Chico: City clerk job ‘waste of money ... time’

Mayoral candidate Gery Chico meets Thursday January 13 2011 with Sun-Times editorial board. | Jean Lachat~Sun-Times

Mayoral candidate Gery Chico meets Thursday, January 13, 2011, with the Sun-Times editorial board. | Jean Lachat~Sun-Times

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Updated: May 4, 2011 4:46AM

Mayoral candidate Gery Chico said Thursday the city could save a lot of money by abolishing the offices of city clerk and city treasurer.

“City Clerk — what does the city clerk do? They give you city stickers,” Chico told the Sun-Times editorial board Thursday. “You go to Jewel and Osco, you get your I-Pass from them.”

It would be cheaper for the city to let people get their city stickers from retail stores, Chico said. Of course, one of Chico’s rivals for mayor is City Clerk Miguel Del Valle, whose appointment as clerk four years ago Chico applauded at the time.

“It’s ridiculous: It’s 100 persons [in the office]. It’s a waste of money, waste of time,” Chico said.

“We used to use the city treasurer’s office and the city clerk’s office to balance the ticket. Now we need to use it to balance the budget. You have to do that.”

Del Valle said he has used the office to put City Council meetings on the Internet, opening city government. The state Legislature created the office to be independent of the mayor’s office to be a “point of access for the public” to learn about the actions of the City Council, del Valle said. It would take a change in state law to abolish it and would result in no savings because the job of selling vehicle stickers, parking permits and keeping track of the City Council would have to be transferred — along with the employees to do it — to other city departments, del Valle said.

For its $8 million budget, the department brings in $100 million in revenue, Del Valle said.

Chico thinks that same revenue could be made selling the city stickers in grocery stores. He estimates saving $7 million to $9 million by closing the two offices.

While Chico’s proposal may have been a side-dig at Del Valle, he saved most of his criticism for the management style of rival Rahm Emanuel. Chico said he would like to work collaboratively with the City Council.

“This is a critical distinction between me and one of my opponents in the race: I think Emanuel’s style is: heavy-handed political enforcer, spin,” Chico said. “That’s the D.C. way. You see where that’s got us in D.C.: a debt level of $14 trillion. Gridlock. Horrible partisan elections. I don’t want to bring that toxic stuff to Chicago. You have to work with people. You have to be collaborative.”

Chico worked for seven years in the City Council Finance Committee under various chairmen including Ald. Ed Burke (14th) the current chairman Chico counts among his closest friends.

“I’d like to draw a contrast between my style and one of my opponents,” Chico said. “When I hear the style that’s being described to me about the pushing; the no-nonsense; the finger in the nose, and ‘You gotta do this or the train’s leaving, get on or else,’ that’s not who we are. That’s going to lead to Washington style gridlock. I want to unite our city.”

In an hour and 20 minutes with the editorial board, Chico also said:

■ While the Sun-Times found 89 of his law firms’ clients had ties to the city, Chico said his fortunes are not built on the connections he made at City Hall. “We don’t make very much working vis a vis the city,” Chico said. “Ninety percent plus of my law firm has nothing to do with City Hall. I have built relationships with corporate entities, banking, finance, law.” If elected, he would leave his law firm. Among Chico’s clients: Zimmer, Inc.; University of Chicago Medical Center; Bridgeview Bank Group; and SIRVA.

■ If he had to choose between giving every Chicago Public School a library or every public school student a lap-top computer, he would choose: “A laptop. It opens you to the library of the world. Instead of a teacher saying, ‘Open your books, we’re going to learn about India’, she could say, ‘Pull out your lap-tops. We’re going to Skype with your fifth-grade colleagues in Mumbai.’”

■ Chico opposes the “Performance Counts” legislation in Springfield that would restrict teachers’ right to strike and make it easier to fire bad teachers. Chico said he has always been successful in negotiating good contracts with the Chicago Teachers Union when he was School Board president and would hope to do the same as mayor.

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