Intelligence Report: Not all side streets created equal

February 3, 2011 8:19:10 PM PST
Some side streets are plowed early and other neighborhoods have to wait a little longer. In this Intelligence Report: Why all Chicago side streets are not created equal.

A veteran employee at Chicago Streets and Sanitation says his department has a "priority list" of who gets plowed first. It is said to be unwritten but understood, and it features the names and home addresses of well-connected Chicago political figures and sometimes their families, including numerous current members of the City Council.

The ABC7 I-Team's looked Thursday at a few such addresses certainly seems to support that.

There are 3,300 miles of side streets within the city of Chicago. That is about 26,000 blocks.

Chicago aldermen live on 50 of the blocks. Right after a snowstorm, they could be the 50 cleanest blocks in the city.

On the street where 14th Ward Alderman Ed Burke lives, for the dean of the City Council and chairman of the finance committee, Streets and San had the road scraped clean by first thing Thursday morning. But not those on each side.

In the 2nd Ward, Alderman Bob Fioretti's street was plowed Thursday morning as well -- as was the home street of Alderman Leslie Hairston in the 5th Ward.

When the I-Team got to the 7th Ward, home of Alderman Sandi Jackson, to take some pictures of her plowed street, a Streets and Sanitation truck rolled up. And who was riding shotgun? Alderman Sandi Jackson, who said she was riding around all morning trying to help her constituents get clear streets.

Jackson said she wouldn't be surprised if Streets and San had a VIP list especially of wards that get favored treatment. Jackson is calling for an investigation by the city inspector general.

"I think the inspector general should do a forensic examination of how this equipment is deployed throughout the city, from top to bottom, from one ward to the next," said Jackson. "We know that some wards have their smaller trucks outfitted with snowplows so that they can go into the alleys almost immediately. Well, I can promise you that does not happen here."

In the 43rd Ward of Alderman Vi Daley, Streets and San got to her neighborhood Wednesday, even before the main roads were finished and the snow was still falling.

The streets were also plowed on the block where 39th Ward Alderman Margaret Laurino lives.

And, in the 11th Ward, Bridgeport, home to five Chicago mayors including the Daleys, not only are the roadways already plowed, along with the street in front of Alderman James Balcer's house, but snow has already been removed from the alleys as well.

Same story for the streets and alleys around the home of 33rd Ward Alderman Dick Mell on the North Side.

Snow in the alleyways isn't plowed. It is supposed to be tamped down by regular garbage collection trucks, but that service hasn't resumed.

The I-Team hasn't been able to reach any of the alderman in this story. But the inspector general may want to talk with them.

A spokesman tells ABC7 they'll look into Alderman Jackson's complaints about the programs and policies of snow clearing by Streets and Sanitation.

A spokesman for Streets and San sent a statement to ABC7 late Thursday afternoon saying they do not practice favoritism. They say all of the allegations in this story are untrue. They also say that even though aldermen work closely with Streets and San, they do not encourage them to ride along like Alderman Jackson did on Thursday.

UPDATE: After Chuck Goudie's piece aired on ABC7 News at 6 p.m., the I-Team heard from several Chicago aldermen.

Alderman James Balcer said he gets no special treatment, that neighbors worked on his street, and his alley was plowed by a resident who has nearby rental properties.

Alderman Dick Mell says neighbors on his street have always pitched in together to dig out with no preference from the city.

Alderman Leslie Hairston says she got no special treatment and was busy Thursday helping constituents on her own.

Alderman Margaret Laurino lives in Sauganash and says a community association pays for its own snow removal.