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Ald. Joe Moreno's Free Trash Cans Criticized in City Inspector Report

By Alisa Hauser | July 24, 2013 12:50pm
 Free Green Cans appeared on the city streets in the fall of 2011 and were yanked by spring 2012.   The scandal has resurfaced in an Inspector Generals' report summarizing complaints and investigations into the behaviors of several Chicago aldermen.
Free Green Cans
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WICKER PARK —  The trash cans that bore the likeness of Ald. Joe Moreno, which he helped put on city sidewalks without permits, are long gone, but the incident continues to dog the Wicker Park alderman.

Though the city's Legislative Inspector General Faisal Khan did not name Moreno (1st) in a report highlighting investigations into several aldermen released Monday, there was enough information in the summary to identify Moreno.

Khan's report describes how, in 2012, "an alderman allowed a recycling company to place kiosks on city property despite the lack of permits."

"The alderman also placed his photo on the side of the kiosks during an election, which is against state and local laws," the report said. "Based on the investigation, the recycling company never billed the alderman for the advertising."

 First Ward Ald. Joe Moreno at a neighborhood meeting
First Ward Ald. Joe Moreno at a neighborhood meeting
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DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser

Shortly after CBS2 reported in 2012 that Mayor Rahm Emanuel was unhappy with the unlicensed cans in 2012 and suggested that the combination trash-recycling containers were a form of political advertising, they were removed.

Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein told Our Urban Times that "to place such containers on the street requires a permit from CDOT, and there is no such permit for the cans. "

Klein later said, "Conceptually, the idea seems like a good one, but when you go about implementing it, you've got to go through the proper channels with the city."

Matt Bailey, a spokesman for Moreno said he had no comment Tuesday on Khan's criticisms "because we haven't seen the actual report, what [Khan] released was a summary."

But last year Moreno wrote on his blog post after the receptacles were removed that his motivation was honorable, not political. The cans were a "zero-cost" way to add on-street recycling which didn't exist, Moreno said.

As for his face being on the cans, Moreno wrote, "nothing on them says 'vote for me, etc.' " Instead, the cans conveyed information on how residents could contact the alderman, he said.

Steve Holland, CEO of Free Green Can, was unable to be reached for comment. The firm's final social media post was in March 2012, when it referenced Moreno's explanation for the cans and said it looked forward to returning to "green" Chicago.

Neighborhood resident Christy Webber, owner of Christy Webber Landscapes, which holds a number of contracts with the city, said Wednesday that "Joe [Moreno] was being Joe."

"He was eager to get cans on the street, and hindsight is 20/20," said Webber.

But, she added, "If you're in the eye of the public, you have to set the example because if you don't, you will always be scrutinized."