Inspector general unveils options to balance city budget

October 25, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Late Sunday Chicago's inspector general, Joseph Ferguson, offered 24 budget options with an estimated $244 million in savings and revenue. Among the options from Inspector General Ferguson are:

  • eliminating subsidized water and sewage for non-profit organization equallng more than $15 million savings,
  • eliminating regular use of traffic aides in the Loop for $4.3 million,
  • and cutting fire truck and engine staff from five to four with a savings of over $63 million.

Currently, five fire department personnel staff trucks and engines, but during non-critical times, four can staff.

A year ago, Ferguson was appointed Chicago's inspector general. The office's mission is defined as rooting out corruption and promoting efficiency. As part of those duties, Inspector General Ferguson felt moved to offer options to balance the city's budget.

The city's committee on budget and government operations is holding hearings on next year's budget where aldermen and department heads are attempting to hold on to funding for 2011. As the battle over next year's budget plays out, some aldermen are angered by some ideas from the inspector general.

"There's a lot of stuff that he should be looking at and he's not doing that when he's over here trying to balance the budget and tell us how to do it so stay over there do his job and stay out of the business over here," said Ald. Ed Smith, 28th Ward.

"In my view, it would have been better if the inspector general had been prepared to share the document with the committee on Friday when he actually made an appearance," said Ald. Toni Preckwinkle, 4th Ward.

While some aldermen find some of the inspector general's options make sense, most aldermen ABC7 spoke with were troubled by the way in which those options were released.

"I think some of the things may be legitimate. Some of them may be feasible to work into the budget, but I mean at the ninth hour, I think that's unfair," said Ald. Walter Burnett, 27th Ward.

"With all do respect to the inspector general, everybody who's been in that office have had thoughts about running for is very interesting," said Ald. Ray Suarez, 31st Ward.

Some aldermen were surprised that the inspector general didn't release the options when he testified last week. A spokesman for the inspector general says he will reappear before the committee if asked.

Regarding his political aspirations, the spokesman says this is not politically motivated.

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