Street sweeper reductions take effect

April 1, 2010 6:38:29 AM PDT
The number of street sweepers will be reduced this year in Chicago, per Mayor Richard Daley's plan, after too few aldermen showed up to a meeting to overturn the proposal.Twenty-six aldermen are need to reach quorum and hold an official vote. At a special meeting called Wednesday to vote on the street sweeper reductions, only 25 aldermen showed up, including one who reportedly flew in from Florida for the special session.

Aldermen were expected to take a vote to maintain the current system for street sweeping, where each of the city's 50 wards are assigned one street sweeper.

Daley wants to maintain only 40 street sweepers and clean neighborhoods on a grid system. The change saves money but will result in a reduction in the frequency of street cleaning.

Street sweepers return to the city neighborhoods Thursday.

"We need to be treated as equal partners. If you are going to address any significant changes in the delivery of city services in the future, they should come to us first," said Ald. Joe Moore (49th), who called the special meeting.

Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) said the "hands off our street sweepers" message was imperative with the 2011 election less than a year away.

"We have to make sure we have the tools we need to do our jobs. When those tools are taken away from us, we are unable to do our jobs. Which means we will lose our jobs," Hairston said.

Ald. Eugene Schulter (47th) thought that message was so important to deliver, he interrupted a Florida vacation to attend Wednesday's meeting. Schulter credited the changes Byrne has already made to appease aldermen with keeping his colleagues away.

"He's come around a long way, as opposed to a time when they said, 'This is a plan and that's how it's gonna be,' " Schulter said.

Pressed on why he took the extraordinary step of flying back to Chicago, Schulter said, "Vacations are vacations, but these are important times. When there's a special meeting of the City Council, I'm here. That's my job."

The goal of the plan is to streamline the Streets and Sanitation Department without layoffs.

At one point during the special meeting, a brief recess was called to give aldermen a last chance to show up. In walked former Ald. Burton F. Natarus (42nd), who offered to cast the 26th vote and added some advice to his former colleagues. "If you give up your sweepers, I feel sorry for you," he warned.

Aldermen will retain some control of the sweepers, with Streets and San having the power to deploy them where they see fit on certain days of the week.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.