Streets and San super moved to desk duty

February 8, 2011 3:08:31 PM PST
A city supervisor was relieved of his duties after failing to provide snow removal for residents in the 7th Ward.

Superintendent Wendell Upton was reassigned to desk duty after allegedly failing to adequately remove snow after the Blizzard of 2011. Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Tom Byrne and Alderman Sandi Jackson, 7th Ward, both signed off on the decision.

Upton tells ABC7 he has been the superintendent for three years, brought in by Alderman Jackson.

The 7th Ward includes portions of South Shore, South Chicago, Calumet Heights and South Deering communities.

"We all had to get out here and shovel ourselves. Every neighbor on the block literally shoveled the middle of the street the sidewalks, everything," said Shanita Shanklin, a resident of the 7th Ward who lives near 83rd and Yates. "He should have been put on desk duty because his whole primary job is to make sure we are safe and are able to get back and forth to work and school."

Arthur Lyles had a feeling he would need to take action. He says last Thursday his neighbors shoveled, got their snow blowers out and enlisted the help of a church-owned plow to clear their own South Chicago side street -- 79th Place.

"We did all this all day Thursday," said Lyles. "We did this ourselves."

Lyles has lived on the street for over 30 years and recalls the blizzard in 1999. He says he didn't expect the city to get to side streets for days.

"We know the first attack they were going to deal with were the main thoroughfares and they were going to get to neighborhoods next," said Lyles.

But the alderman for his 7th Ward expected more from the city. Last week Alderman Jackson complained that other areas of the city were getting more attention.

"I understand that downtown has to get clear. But you can't pull trucks from neighborhoods like these where people have to get downtown to go to work, but they can't because their streets haven't been touched, not once," Jackson said.

Her complaint led to an inquiry by ABC7 to the inspector general. The inspector general is now reviewing the city's snow removal during the Blizzard of 2011.

"The city, in some respects, could be said to have performed admirably. In other respects, the cracks showed. And they will be taking a look at it. But it's also important that an indepenedent oversight body takes a look at it," said Joe Ferguson, Chicago's inspector general.

On Tuesday, the city's Streets and Sanitation Department confirmed that the 7th Ward superintendent was taken off the job and moved to administrative duties due to performance issues during the blizzard.

Darcel Beavers opposes Alderman Jackson in the upcoming election. He says the ward needs an experienced superintendent.

"The streets along the lake front are small, so you need a Bobcat. And you should have been dumping that equipment and then dumping into the park. We have Rainbow Beach right there at South Shore Drive," Beavers said.

ABC7 tried to talk with Alderman Jackson on Tuesday. Her chief of staff took our request, but we have not heard anything beyond that confirmation.

The inspector general's review is expected to begin in earnest once the Streets and Sanitation commissioner gets done with snow removal. The inspector general does not want to interfere with on going cleanup.