Mayor Rahm Emanuel did little today to resolve a dispute with Inspector General Joseph Ferguson, saying he welcomes an audit by Ferguson of the savings in the city's grid garbage pick-up system but only once the city has finished rolling out the program.
The mayor spoke a day after Ferguson, the city's internal watchdog, released a report saying his attempt to substantiate Emanuel administration claims the city would save $18 million by switching to grid garbage pick-up was thwarted by a lack of cooperation. Ferguson said Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Charles Williams walked out of a March meeting when he was asked for details on how the savings were measured.
The inspector general report also said Streets and Sanitation officials conceded that the continued use of 50 ward supervisors to help oversee garbage collection "did not meet current management needs" but that officials "blocked (Ferguson's) effort to review or validate management's claimed efforts to correct his self-identified deficiency."
Emanuel announced in April that the city was starting the final phase of citywide grid garbage pick-up. And while he said today that he wants the audit, he left open the question of when.
"We know those savings are going to be used for recycling, so we don't have to levy a tax," he said at an unrelated news conference. "More importantly, we didn't want to study it while we were implementing it, but get it implemented and then we want it studied so we can actually show the full savings."
Emanuel also defended a move to require Ferguson, with whom he has clashed about subpoena power for the IG's office and other issues, to re-apply for his position when his term expires in late November, saying that was a recommendation by the mayor's blue ribbon ethics panel.
The mayor also took questions about Wrigley Field, his infrastructure trust initiative and a potential successor to retiring Ald. Richard Mell.
• The mayor said the city and the Chicago Cubs "are just a few feet away, and I mean literally just a few feet away, from a win-win situation" on the controversial question of the size of video signs the team wants to put in the left field and right field bleachers at Wrigley Field. Ald. Tom Tunney, 44th, who represents the neighborhood around the park, has been fighting to get the digital signs shrunk from the 6,000 square feet the Cubs want in left field and the 1,000 square feet they have requested in right. The city Landmarks Commission is scheduled to consider the digital sign plans Thursday, and the mayor, Tunney and team representatives have been continuing negotiations.
• Emanuel did not respond directly to a question about why the infrastructure trust he set up to privately fund projects that the city couldn't otherwise afford is instead trying to raise money to pay for Chicago Public Schools energy efficiency programs the school district already paid for itself. The mayor instead touted infrastructure work like the CTA Red Line reconstruction going on across the city, projects not connected to the trust. "The goal wasn't speed, the goal was to do it right," he said of the trust, which is behind schedule on raising money and identifying infrastructure projects to fund.
• On whether state Rep. Deb Mell should succeed her father, Richard Mell, as alderman of the 33rd Ward when the elder Mell steps down later this month, Emanuel made it clear he doesn't think she should be ruled out simply because the move could have the taint of nepotism. "State Rep. Deb Mell is not guaranteed the job because her last name is Deb Mell, and state Rep. Deb Mell is not excluded from the job because her last name is Mell," he said. Emanuel, who has spoken favorably of Deb Mell in the past, has said he will choose a replacement for Richard Mell from among people who apply to the city for the position.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun