CITY HALL — A leading challenger to Mayor Rahm Emanuel is calling for action on the hot-button issues of potholes, parking and airport flight patterns.
Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd), who is running against Emanuel in the February municipal election, introduced the measures at Wednesday's City Council meeting, backed by most of his colleagues in the Progressive Reform Caucus.
Two are orders trying to compel action on potholes and a $58 million judgment against the city involving Chicago Loop Parking. Another is a resolution seeking hearings on flight patterns at O'Hare and Midway airports.
Fioretti denied that the campaign had anything to do with the timing and his decision to press the issues. "All of them I've had interest in," Fioretti said Thursday. "And none of them really was [submitted] with an eye toward the campaign."
Emanuel's political campaign spokesman declined comment.
The order on potholes asks that Transportation Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld present a "status report" on how the city is dealing with the "war on potholes." The order lays out the difference between hot-patch and cold-patch repairs, with hot patches being more permanent, while cold patches, which are less stable, as they use softening materials rather than heat to ease application, need to be done in colder weather.
The order asks why the Department of Transportation "has continued to use cold patch to fill potholes throughout the warm months," which it contends is a potential waste.
The order was signed by Fioretti and aldermen Scott Waguespack (32nd), Nicholas Sposato (36th), Roderick Sawyer (6th), Ricardo Munoz (22nd), John Arena (45th) and Leslie Hairston (5th), all members of the progressive caucus, and was sent to the Transportation Committee. According to Fioretti, Sawyer said he'd been complaining about cold patches being used in warm weather all summer.
Pete Scales, spokesman for the Department of Transportation, said the city expected to have filled a record 900,000 potholes by the end of the year. "During the warmer weather — generally April through November — CDOT crews use heated asphalt patching material to fill potholes," he said. "When the asphalt production plants close for the winter months, CDOT switches to a high-performance patching material that does not require to be heated for application. Both materials have the same level of durability. However, the high-performance 'cold patch' material is more than twice as expensive ($110 a ton) as the hot material ($48 a ton), which is why it isn’t used in great quantities year-round."
Scales explained the department does use a small amount of high-performance material in the summer months due to logistical reasons and operational needs, as sources of hot asphalt are limited in number, and spread out across the city. "In some cases, a pothole crew will require a small amount of material to finish a job," he added. "Operationally it makes much more sense to utilize the high-performance cold patch than to have a crew drive back and forth across the city to reload with hot material."
The order on the parking judgment asks Budget Director Alexandra Holt and Corporation Counsel Stephen Patton to execute a "contingency plan" should the city be compelled to pay a $58 million judgment to Chicago Loop Parking during the 2015 budget year.
According to the order, the city got $563 million from the firm in 2006 for a 99-year lease on four underground parking garages beneath Grant and Millennium parks. Yet the deal included a noncompete clause, which the firm said was violated when the city authorized the nearby building of Jeanne Gang's Aqua skyscraper in 2009, as that building came with a 1,273-car public parking garage.
The order says the firm won a $58 million damage judgment against the city in binding arbitration in 2011, and that has held up under appeals. The order seeks to compel a contingency plan for how to fill the hole in the 2015 budget should the city be forced to pay it next year.
Yet, that measure was sent to the Rules Committee, which has been called "where good legislation goes to die," after being signed by Fioretti, Hairston, Sawyer, Munoz, Arena, Waguespack and Ald. Toni Foulkes (15th), another member of the Progressive Caucus. Fioretti said he had asked that it be submitted to the Budget Committee, as that only made sense.
The resolution calls for hearings on the "impact of new flight patterns" at O'Hare and Midway, a hot-button issue with the new runways at O'Hare and the recent crash of a jet into a house near Midway. It was signed by Fioretti, Hairston, Sposato, Arena, Waguespack, Sawyer and Munoz and was sent to the Aviation Committee.
Fioretti said he'd been seeking hearings on airport noise for months, but bowed to local aldermen who were taking a less confrontational approach with the administration. Hearing complaints — and jets — while campaigning on the Northwest Side, however, persuaded him otherwise.
Fioretti also submitted a resolution Wednesday seeking hearings on whether the city's winter parking ban on main arteries should be ended. He said Thursday that should have been addressed before it took effect anew on Dec. 1.
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