An ordinance that would restructure the terms of privatization efforts
in Chicago and how the City Council approves such deals was held in the
City Council's Committee on Finance this morning. The ordinance (PDF) was
introduced in February by Laborers Local 1001,
which represents employees in the city's Department of Streets and
Sanitation. There's been a lot of talk that the incoming Emanuel
administration will put privatization of various city services on the
table. And the Daley administration, in its waning days, is looking to contract out the city's incomplete recycling program.
Local 1001's bill would raise the procedural bar for privatization contracts worth $10 million and more, requiring two-thirds of the council to vote in favor of such deals. The bill would also mandate that firms hired to take over city services comply with Chicago's residency requirements and pay wages determined by the state Prevailing Wage Act (or, if their employees aren't subject to the wage act, pay wages that aren't lower than what city workers performing comparable tasks are making).
Privatization of city services has become an increasingly controversial tactic, following the much-maligned contract giving a Morgan Stanley-owned company control of Chicago's 36,000 parking meters through 2084. Selling off city assets, including the meters, downtown garages, and the Skyway, was a favorite move of the Daley administration.
It's worth noting that in addition to the laborers' bill, there are other efforts afoot in the City Council to rein in how Chicago privatizes services. The Illinois Public Interest Group counts 19 members of the current council as signatories to its privatization transparency pledge, which asks that council members "not vote for any future ordinances that lease public assets or services unless at a minimum there is proper public discourse and protections to ensure taxpayers receive fair value." (One of those signatories, Ald. Brian Doherty, will retire.) Laborer's Local 1001, by the way, says recycling can be deployed across Chicago for a $10 monthly fee that would raise $72 million annually.