Friday, August 12, 2011

Mayor plans to change garbage-collection method to save $60 million

Mayor Rahm Emanuel plans to change the way garbage is picked up in Chicago with the intention of saving $60 million a year, according to a report.

Several aldermen say the mayor believes he can save that much and will not pass it up just because it could anger City Council members, for whom influence over such services is important in their wards, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Friday. Aldermen are afraid a grid collection plan would take away their ability to answer special service requests in their wards, the paper said.

Mr. Emanuel recently asked consultants to come up with a collection plan that spreads the work evenly among drivers without consideration of city ward borders, according to the report. Aides to Emanuel said then that City Hall was just looking into the idea and that a decision wouldn’t be made until after a draft plan was written by consultants and they figured out what amount could be saved, the Sun-Times said.

Mayor Emanuel wants his allies on the city council to find a way to sell a grid system to the city council. Here's more from the Chicago Sun-Times:
“Politically, they’ve decided that any big-ticket item is worth looking at and this is one of them,” said Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th), the mayor’s City Council floor leader. “We don’t know the plan or whether we can implement it [in time] to get in a full year of savings. But the decision has been made to go down the road and see what a grid would look like. The administration can’t pass up the possibility to try and implement it.”

Last year, former Mayor Richard M. Daley infuriated aldermen by stripping them of their exclusive control of a street sweeper in each ward and switching to a grid system that divided Chicago into 33 same-size chunks.

Switching to a grid system for residential garbage collection could trigger a similar rebellion.

During closed-door briefings on the mayor’s preliminary 2012 budget, many aldermen said they were dead set against the idea for fear that it would deprive them of their ability to respond to special requests for services.

O’Connor thinks there are ways to ease those concerns.

“You’ve got to develop a protocol that ensures that there is a certain amount of equipment available to the wards on a shared basis that’s off the grid,” he said.

Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) is one of the few aldermen who has no problem switching to a grid “so long as there is still an ability to have a staffer or superintendent who can handle unique situations” which happen “a dozen times every day.”

“People call to say, ‘There’s fly-dumping, they missed my pickup or they’re dumping trash on my street,’ ” Waguespack said.

“If there was still the ability to handle those unique situations and they could guarantee a constituent would be taken care of on the same day or within a fairly short time frame, then I would be prone to supporting it,” he said. “But a lot of aldermen will fight that tooth and nail. What they’re saying is, ‘You still get the calls, but you don’t have any control.’ ”

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