Bold budget plan for city Scoopsville ...
BY MICHAEL SNEED Sun-Times Columnist
Cut and slash! Sneed has learned city Inspector General Joseph Ferguson, a former U.S. attorney, is wielding a new pair of scissors.
Sneed hears Ferguson has devised a plan he thinks will save the city approximately $275 million, which includes budget options guaranteed to sound alarms all over the city!
The report, which contains 24 options "to decrease city spending or increase city revenue," calls for reducing the size of the Chicago Fire Department by 595 firefighters, cutting off free water and sewer service for nonprofit organizations like the profoundly respected Misericordia, and moving sworn police officers to nonadministrative jobs.
"The shocking thing is no city inspector general has ever done anything like this before," said a top Sneed source.
"Ferguson has no power to cut the budget, but he feels his role by law is to promote an effective city government, and the city's current level of spending -- matched with the city's revenue structure -- is unsustainable," the source said.
"But seniors and organizations like Misericordia, which cares for the city's profoundly disabled, and the nation's greatest fire department would be hit hard," the source added. "Even the city's 'Jumping Jack' program which provides inflatable playgrounds for 350,000 children would be cut." The controversial report of recommendations was dispatched to Mayor Daley, city officials and all 50 city alderman over the weekend.
The report advises the city to:
?Reduce fire apparatus staffing to four persons, savings the city nearly $65 million.
?Eliminate city funding for tuberculosis clinics.
?Eliminate free sewer services for seniors.
?Privatize city garbage and recycling collection and switch to a regional grid based system of garbage collection.
?Eliminate the regular use of traffic control aides in the Loop.
?Charge a fee for blue cart recycling.
?Charge a fee to nonprofits that receive garbage collection.
?Eliminate subsidized water and sewer usage for nonprofit organizations (which includes seven major hospitals).
?Eliminate the condo refuse rebate program.
Â*?Eliminate subscription fees to Water Research Foundation.
?Eliminate additional pay for certain water department workers when they work on weekends.
?Eliminate home-buying assistance for police officers, firefighters and teachers.
?Eliminate property tax relief grants.
The upshot: Ferguson, who has been in office for a year, claims his office is "charged by ordinance with promoting economy, efficiency, effectiveness and integrity in the operations of the city government." The idea for the report was generated by the city facing an annual deficit above $1 billion, but the report is "intended as a framework for analysis and public discussion."
The buckshot: Watch for the fireworks this week when aldermen and city officials open their e-mails.