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City's Rules Committee Attacked Over Privatization Ordinance

By Ted Cox | November 14, 2013 5:50pm
 Ald. Roderick Sawyer introduced his Privatization Transparency and Accountability Ordinance a year ago Friday.
Ald. Roderick Sawyer introduced his Privatization Transparency and Accountability Ordinance a year ago Friday.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

THE LOOP — The Union League Club is lending its support to efforts to free a proposed privatization transparency ordinance from the shackles of the City Council's Rules Committee.

The longtime good-government organization joined the Better Government Association Thursday in publicly supporting the Privatization Transparency and Accountability Ordinance, first introduced by Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) a year ago Friday.

"Since its introduction, in November 2012, this ordinance has been held in committee without any consideration," said Guy Maras, president of the Union League Club of Chicago, at a Thursday news conference at the club. "The delay is unwarranted."

"The ordinance was never meant to be controversial," Sawyer said. "This ordinance was meant as recognition of the fact that we live in challenging fiscal times and that we must be extremely cautious in how we spend the taxpayers' money."

The ordinance places strict requirements on any privatization deal undertaken by the city, such as executing a "cost-effectiveness study" and other forms of detailed financial disclosure. The intent is to give the City Council the tools to avoid debacles like the infamous parking-meter deal.

Yet, because it would give the council more scrutiny over deals negotiated by the mayor, it was sent to the Rules Committee, which has been called "where good legislation goes to die." The Rules Committee, too, has been under more scrutiny lately, including a full-scale City Council debate Wednesday over efforts to free two proposals bottled up in Rules.

Sawyer said Thursday the new push for his ordinance is about pressing the initiative against the Rules Committee and its chairman, Ald. Michelle Harris (8th).

"What brings us here today," Sawyer said, "is a question of process. Valid ideas to improve the government of the City of Chicago deserve a fair hearing in committee."

Sawyer added that he had made a formal request for a hearing with Harris and, before that, with Ald. Richard Mell (33rd), longtime chairman of the Rules Committee before his retirement in July.

"He did make a statement to me," Sawyer said. "I really can't say it in public."

Sawyer said he was trying to open up the Rules Committee, which has served as a legislative dumping ground for years.

"Rules has historically been the place where you kill legislation, and it's got to stop," he added.

Yet Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), who was part of the council majority Wednesday voting to keep controversial legislation in the Rules Committee, said this ordinance is about good government.

"Frankly, this ordinance helps the mayor do a better job for the City of Chicago," Reilly said. "We need to have a more deliberative process and an open conversation and a very thorough review of the details, the impacts and consequences, that come with these deals."

Sawyer was joined Thursday by Aldermen Bob Fioretti (2nd), Toni Foulkes (15th), Scott Waguespack (32nd) and Nick Sposato (36th), his colleagues in the Progressive Reform Caucus, as well as Reilly and Aldermen Joe Moreno (1st), Pat Dowell (3rd) and William Burns (4th).

The Union League Club's Board of Directors actually approved a resolution supporting Sawyer's ordinance in September, but went public with it Thursday, with President Maras saying, "We reiterate that call for an open debate of the ordinance, which is completely aligned with the mayor's commitment to openness and transparency."