Mayor Daley is demanding that aldermen hand over the keys to all 50 city street sweepers, those urban Zambonis that suck up trash from your curbs every summer.
Right now, every ward has its own sweeper, under the control of the alderman and the ward superintendent. But Daley wants to cut the fleet to 34 machines, put 'em under City Hall's control and clean the streets on a “grid."
That’ll save money, but it’ll also mean that some streets are only swept every 8 to 10 weeks, instead of the once-a-month.
Aldermen are so incensed at losing control they’ve called a special City Council meeting for Wednesday, the day before the April 1 start of street sweeping season.
“I like to say that the alderman’s job has three roles,” says 22nd Ward Ald. Ricardo Munoz, who gets as many as six "special requests" for the sweeper each week. “One of them is a housekeeper. The street sweeper is part of that housekeeping role.”
If there’s a traffic accident at 31st and Lawndale, Munoz and his ward superintendent can dispatch a street sweeper to clean up the broken glass. After a 5K race, the sweeper cleans up behind the runners. In the fall, it whisks away dead leaves.
As of Tuesday, Munoz hasn’t been told where the sweepers will be stationed under Mayor Daley’s plan, who’ll be in charge of the machines, or how often they can be dispatched for emergencies.
“We don’t know who the downtown bureaucrat is,” he complains. “This bureaucrat doesn’t know when the Little Village 5K is.”
And if the streets of La Villita are littered with trampled cups and empty Gu packets for a week after the race, guess who’ll get blamed? Not Mayor Daley. Alderman Munoz. 'Cause it’s his job to keep the streets clean.
Munoz is joined in rebellion by Joe Moore and Willie Cochran, two other aldermen from densely populated wards. Moore, who represents Rogers Park, says the grid system will add to the parking hassles in his ward by expanding the area swept in a single day.
“Where are all those folks going to put their cars?” Moore tells Parking Ticket Geek. “They may have to park blocks, if not a mile away from where they live. If they don’t move they’ll receive tickets or if the city doesn’t ticket, streets won’t get swept.”
So the city will write more tickets, and the aldermen will take the rap for dirty streets. It sounds like a win-win for Mayor Daley.