Mayor Rahm Emanuel declared Wednesday that the days of city workers "gaming the system" are over. But he also said he is moving as fast as he can to bring greater accountability to city government.
"No matter how much I would like to play Zeus, god-like, throwing thunderbolts, I don't get to," he said.
Citing absentee rates in the Department of Streets and Sanitation of 30 percent, Emanuel said he told a gathering of Streets and San workers that continued abuse of sick days is "unfair to the taxpayers, it’s unfair to the constituents who rely on the work. And it is truly unfair to your colleagues."
"When you have problems with people abusing vacation days, the holidays, the sick days, and abusing the system, and gaming it, everybody gets affected," he said.
Emanuel said Streets and San is just one city department which he intends to target with a process which he calls "managed competition." While he said he is opposed to privatizing city services, he said he does believe in putting them out for competitive bid, with current departments vying for the right to do the job.
"Waste Management is represented by Teamsters and the Laborer’s Union," he said. "Streets and Sanitation? Teamsters and Laborers. It will be a union workforce. The question is, will the taxpayers get the best value. And whoever has the best price, will win."
During a wide-ranging online "town hall" with the Better Government Association, Emanuel sounded a populist theme, declaring that everyone who works for the city does have a boss, and it isn’t him.
"It’s called the taxpayer," he said.
On other topics Emanuel declared:
- His support of a casino for Chicago is based on simple math, and a need to invest in the city’s infrastructure. "I could not continue to allow Hammond, Indiana, to be the Chicago casino, and we lose $20 million a month."
- His intention to "change the culture" in the fire department, which allowed overtime abuses by dozens of workers in the Fire Prevention Bureau, who he has declined to fire. "Commissioner [Robert] Hoff is dealing with that," he said.
- A continuing effort toward more "transparency" in city government. On Wednesday, he announced that all financial disclosure forms, required of city officials, would go online for public inspection.