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Will Emanuel back privatization transparency measure?

Community and public interest groups are calling on Mayor Emanuel to support a privatization transparency ordinance that is expected to be considered by the City Council Rules Committee on Wednesday.

The Privatization Transparency and Accountability Ordinance, submitted last November by Alderman Roderick Sawyer (7th) and sponsored by 32 aldermen, would require a cost-effectiveness study and public hearings when the city seeks to contract out services and operations.

Along with a cost-effectiveness study prior to the award of any contract, Sawyer’s ordinance would require a study of possible alternatives in collaboration with unions representing city workers whose jobs could be threatened.  City workers would also be qualified to bid on contracts through their unions.

Noting concerns over unemployment, wage levels and workforce diversity, the ordinance would require that at least half of contract work be performed by city residents, and that contractors pay wages and benefits comparable to what city workers get for the same work.  It would mandate City Council hearings and approval of contracts over $250,000.

“I have a concern about touting a monetary savings if we haven’t thought about the people that will lose a job, the families that could lose a home and the local businesses that could lose a loyal customer,” Sawyer said when he introduced the ordinance.

“If we gut the foundation of our most stable communities by moving jobs to companies that do not have a residency requirement, does the money saved on the budget make up for the money lost in property tax and sales tax revenue? Is there consideration of possible collateral costs of neighborhood destabilization and loss of property values?”

In a letter to Emanuel, the groups backing Sawyer’s ordinance note the $200-million lawsuit against the city based on a non-compete clause in the parking meter privatization deal signed by Mayor Daley in 2008.  Daley now works for the law firm that negotiated the deal.

The process of privatization “must take place in the open from beginning to end,” the groups write.  “The public should be aware of every step that is taken in pursuing a privatization proposal — from the initial hiring of a consultant to the selection of a winning bidder.”

“Given Mayor Emanuel’s repeated statements that he is committed to transparency and accountability in City government and privatization deals, we think this should be an easy commitment for him to make,” said Hailey Golds of Illinois PIRG, one of the groups backing the ordinance.

Other groups signing the letter include the Chatham Business Council, Horner Park Advisory Council, West Loop Community Organization, Rogers Park Community Organization, Wicker Park Committee, and Wrightwood Neighbors Association.


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Category: city budget, privatization

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