CITY HALL — The Chicago Republican Party is calling for the City Council to investigate an electronic billboard deal passed late last year.
Yet, with no Republicans on the Council, it all but fell on deaf ears.
In the wake of a Tribune story examining the billboard deal last week, Chicago GOP spokesman Chris Cleveland said, "It's time for the mayor and the Democrats to stop selling the city's assets just to get a little short-term cash. The Democrats need to learn from the parking meter mess. What's it going to take for them to get a clue?"
Mayor Rahm Emanuel backed the deal for bringing the city $15 million this year and an estimated $270 million over the 20-year life of the contract. He defied aldermen to find other sources of income, although last week's story suggested the deal was rife with give-backs.
Even so, Ald. Patrick O'Connor (40th), Emanuel's floor leader in the Council, pooh-poohed Republican calls for an investigation.
"Any time you start a sentence with 'Republicans are asking' it kind of takes away from the credibility of the question," O'Connor said. "We will continue to try to do what we think is best for the City of Chicago and hope they will do what's best for the State of Illinois, which they've failed to do at this point."
Cleveland made other charges as well.
"This new giveaway is especially galling, given the new revelations that the mayor has taken donations from the billboard vendor, from red-light camera vendors and from other city contractors," he said. "Is he looking to get another billboard payoff?"
The mayor is in Israel, and his press office did not respond to a request for comment.
Aldermen Scott Waguespack (32nd) and John Arena (45th) voted against the deal and have remained critical of it, but if they push for a probe it won't be because of Republican instigation.
Republicans have been on a promotional push trying to stage a comeback in Chicago.