A number of top city officials and Chicago aldermen are pushing back against the potential budget cuts Inspector General Joe Ferguson listed in his recent report (PDF) about the city's fiscal problems.
During a budget hearing about the Fire Department's 2011 appropriation, fire commissioner Joseph Hoff said reducing minimum staffing levels on fire vehicles from five to four, as Ferguson's report posited, would pose a threat to residents and fire personnel alike. "In basic terms, it means lives could be lost, that of civilians and firefighters," Hoff told the Tribune of that idea. "Property damage – fires are going to grow faster because we're not getting water on it fast enough – property damage is going to skyrocket." Budget director Eugene Munin said the options outlined by Ferguson would necessitate $90 million in new fees. Aldermen, meanwhile, are miffed that Ferguson's report posed the idea of slashing free sewer services for senior homeowners, subsidized water for non-profits, and cutting grants for neighborhood chambers of commerce, which Ald. Joe Moore (49th Ward) called a "penny wise and pound foolish approach, especially in these tough economic times."
The inspector general's report includes both pro and con arguments for each of the budget measures his office outlined. It does not say the City Council and mayor should definitively carry out any specific cut. It also does not include a number of cost-saving options City Council and the next mayoral administration could examine to address the city's budget deficit -- including cutting the city's large middle management corps, reforming city contracts and pinstripe patronage, and ending an economic development strategy that showers multi-million dollar tax increment financing grants on profitable corporations.