Rahm’s bad-news budget clears first hurdle after garbage fee tweak

WRITTEN BY FRAN SPIELMAN – CHICAGO SUN-TIMES

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s $7.8 billion lower-the-boom budget cleared its first major hurdle Monday after a key concession aimed at making the first-ever garbage collection fee easier for aldermen to swallow.

Prior to the unanimous voice vote by the City Council’s Budget Committee, aldermen signed off on an amendment creating a separate enterprise fund for garbage fee revenues and shifting $62.7 million in Streets and Sanitation expenses into that fund.

“There was a concern that the garbage fee would go into the general operating budget. . . . This is about providing them with that comfort and demonstrating that the proposed fee would be used to support refuse collection,” Budget Director Alex Holt said.

“Any discussions about privatization are really a separate discussion and have nothing to do with this. . . . There’s a much longer, long-term discussion to have about the cost of garbage collection in the city and whether privatization or keeping it in-house is the appropriate approach.”

For Ald. George Cardenas (12th), the Hispanic Caucus chairman who championed the idea, creating an enterprise fund with the $9.50-a-month-per-household garbage fee has everything to do with preventing the city from privatizing garbage collection.

By segregating garbage fee funds, Cardenas hopes to pave the way for city crews to “grow the pot” by competing with private scavenger services for the right to pick up trash at multi-unit residential buildings.

“It’s a big concern of mine to privatize garbage in a city that depends so heavily on this particular service,” Cardenas said.

“We see it. African-Americans see it. If you can imagine privatizing that and charging by the pound or charging by the services, I mean — the costs would be out of control. We could never meet that. . . . This puts it in a very good position not to be privatized.”

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