Editor's note: This editorial comes from 5th Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston. Ward Room has chosen to run the editorial in full.
Chicagoans angered by the consequences of privatizing city parking garages and meters better hold onto their wallets. Mayor Rahm Emanuel's Chicago Infrastructure Trust Ordinance, scheduled for a vote at tomorrow's City Council meeting, could make those previous deals look like child's play.
Despite his "reform" claims, Emanuel has employed the same closed, rushed, "ram it down their throats" process that placed us at the mercy of investors who can increase costs at will, demand the City provide compensation for losses and refer complaints to a black hole where nobody accepts fault. Even worse, he wants us to give him blanket authority over numerous such ventures, with appointees he chooses as "watchdogs."
Yesterday I voted against sending this ordinance out of the Finance Committee. The convoluted "smoke and mirrors" financial arguments deserve far more scrutiny than possible in the few days aldermen had for review. Too many questions remain open about the true public benefit, return rates, escape clauses, employment opportunities for residents (especially women and minorities), whether the city might do some of the projects more cost effectively on its own.
Exactly who are these private "partners" coming to our "rescue?" Aren't some of them re-constituted entities of firms whose greed contributed to the nation's economic meltdown? As with the parking meters I also voted against, I see too little transparency, accountability, oversight or evidence to justify a leap of faith into what could prove another bottomless pit of financial risk for Chicago taxpayers.
Since his first days in office, the Mayor has floated the idea of cutting the 50-member Chicago City Council in half. His legislation and style have already supported increase to his executive powers, while diminishing the alderman's. I was elected to represent my ward and do not intend to relinquish that responsibility. For example, the speed bumps constituents requested I install near schools have been very effective. Red-light cameras would be a waste of money in those areas, so I do not intend to vote for installing them without local input or approval on where they are located.
The Mayor may believe Chicago is best served by putting its assets on the auction block - from our schools and basic services, to infrastructure. I agree we need to look at all possibilities. The best partners to do that with are the aldermen. We actually live in our respective communities and must live with the impact of our decisions.