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Fun with Chicago numbers

Wednesday, Sep 28, 2011

* The Chicago Tribune almost never runs local campaign polls by any other outlet, no matter how reputable. Yet, the paper is apparently willing to publish the results of an Internet poll. Strange

A parent-advocacy group whose members have criticized Chicago Public Schools’ efforts to offer financial incentives for a lengthened school day found that most respondents to its online survey support a longer day.

Raise Your Hand leaders said 68 percent of the 1,222 survey takers, made up of parents and teachers from 230 schools, said they favored a longer day. About 43 percent said they supported a longer school year.

There was no explanation about how the respondents were recruited for the survey. And there was no explanation for what this group is or how it’s funded. The “poll,” by the way, is here.

* The easy part of being Chicago’s Inspector General is you can toss out a bunch of revenue ideas for the city that have absolutely no chance of passage and nobody blames you or even questions why you’re doing it. Why the IG would consider tax hike proposals to be part of his “mandate of promoting efficiency and effectiveness in City government” is beyond me, but let’s check out his list. Some of these aren’t bad ideas, but most ain’t going anywhere…

· Reducing the ratio of managers to non-supervisory employees in City government to save more than $100,000,000 annually
· Eliminating all Tax Increment Financing Districts to increase tax revenues to the City’s general fund by an estimated $100 million annually
· Increasing the work week of all City employees to 40 hours to save approximately $40 million annually
· Broadening the City’s Sales Tax to include more services generating an estimated $450 million annually
· Eliminating Police and Fire Duty Availability Pay that costs the City approximately $52 million a year
· Raise Water and Sewer Rates to the national average which would increase annual revenues by $380 million
· Eliminating Police Department Supervisor Quarterly Pay saving approximately $9.6 million annually
· Create a Commuter Tax estimated to generate $300 million in annual revenues
· Eliminate Tuition Reimbursement for City Employees, saving approximately $7.3 million
· Implement Congestion Pricing for vehicular traffic that is estimated to generate an additional annual revenues of $235 million
· Reducing the number of paid holidays for City workers from 13 to 10 resulting in annual savings estimated at $4.9 million
· Broadening the City’s Amusement Tax which would produce an additional $105 million in annual revenues
· Eliminate the Fire Commissary Contract for yearly savings of $2 million
· Doubling the City’s Boat Mooring Tax to generate an additional $1.3 million

* And check out the weasel wording from the inspector general’s press release…

…the inclusion of any option in this report is not, and should not be, construed as an endorsement by the IGO

In other words, “I’m not saying, I’m just saying…”

* Such a list, of course, leads to headlines like this one

Report: Chicago could charge tolls on Lake Shore Drive

Kinda misleading.

* Mayor Emanuel responds…

Across Chicago, residents, Aldermen and now the Inspector General have proposed ideas to tackle the difficult fiscal challenges ahead. Anything that will protect taxpayers and maintain the quality of services the City provides should be considered.

As I have said from the beginning, raising property taxes, income taxes or sales taxes is off the table. And asking drivers on Lake Shore Drive to pay a toll is also a non-starter.

There are a number of reforms and efficiencies in the Inspector General’s report that are promising, some of which we have already implemented and some we will give serious consideration.

* Earlier this year, Mayor Emanuel was upset about high absentee levels at Streets and San

“A 33 percent daily absentee rate has put the city in the position that it’s making choices between services it need not make. . . . That’s unacceptable to the city,” Emanuel said then.

“Residents and taxpayers and people [who] expect these services deserve better and they will get better. I ask the leaders of organized labor to be that partner in solving this problem.”

At the time, Lou Phillips, business manager of Laborers Local 1001, insisted that the daily absenteeism rate is more like 5 percent.

* Yesterday, Emanuel pretty much confirmed that the union was right, but still tried to use the numbers against the workers

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday turned up the heat on garbage collection crews he has accused of chronic absenteeism — by releasing records that he said show a pattern of abuse on Mondays and Fridays.

In the 13-month period ending on Aug. 31, an average of 40 laborers a day had “unscheduled absences” on Mondays, roughly 6.6 percent of the daily workforce of 600. That’s compared to 27 unexcused absences or 4.5 percent on Thursdays.

On Fridays, 5 percent of the workforce was on unscheduled days off.

Bar graphs posted on the city’s website show a similar pattern for truck drivers. Their absenteeism averaged 19 on Mondays and dropped to 13 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

A difference of half a point between Thursdays and Fridays doesn’t really mean much, but whatever.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Wonderin - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 10:54 am:

    Where is the city’s comparison of Monday and Friday absenteeism to their always present private sector benchmark? I would expect Monday and Friday absenteeism is high in all industry across the nation.

  2. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 11:06 am:

    Weirdness from the inspector general. Not a lot on his plate or something? Why is he roaming around in revenue policy?

  3. - Responsa - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 11:25 am:

    I think the IG’s point was to get people talking– and thinking– in more concrete terms about the budget shortfalls. It seems to be working.

    Furthermore, whatever cuts/new fees and taxes come out of the debate pols are hoping people will say, “Well, it’s terrible but it could have been worse. At least they didn’t do X.”

  4. - Dooley Dudright - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 11:26 am:

    I say good for Ferguson. IMHO, he’s got a lot of excellent ideas.

    Sure, many of them are political nonstarters — but it’s high time that SOMEBODY posed them.

    Actually, this is a good setup — not that it was designed that way, of course. Ferguson tees up a whole bunch of ideas, and the mayor trashes (or ignores) most of them — for now.

    Let them incubate a little. And just watch: several of Ferguson’s suggestions — implausible as they may seem today — will slowly move toward mainstream thinking, and will indeed come to pass.

  5. - Boone's is Back - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 11:26 am:

    I had a friend call me yesterday screaming that Alderman had no right to charge a “commuter tax” on LSD. I had no idea what he was talking about. Now I know where all this craziness came from…

  6. - reformer - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 11:33 am:

    The tax I expect Rahm to jack is for water and sewer. That way suburbanites pay, but it’s done in a low-key way they won’t realize, unlike a commuter tax or a city income tax. Water rates skyrocketed during Daley’s last few years.

  7. - The Captain - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 11:33 am:

    Hey, you, yeah you: WRONGDOING. That’s your mandate. Leave the policy to the 51 people who got elected.

    At some point (probably when you realized you could follow in David Hoffman’s footsteps into a top tier race) you decided you were the IG, the Mayor, the auditor and the budget committee director. You’re not.

    Also, remember a few weeks ago when you went around whining about how you were understaffed? Yeah, we do too. Hiring more people for you to come up with lame ideas like putting tolls on the LSD isn’t what we want from you.

    Get a clue.

  8. - Steve Bartin - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 11:42 am:

    Does anyone think a Chicago city income tax is in the cards?

  9. - BelleAire - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 11:47 am:

    reduce the absurdly fabulous health benefits;
    charge the employees more for the reduced benefits;
    get rid of 30-50% of management or put them back to work;
    Rahm and his PR people spend more time on the job than issuing statements about work;
    reduce number of Aldermen;
    implement 40 hr work week.

  10. - Cheryl44 - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 12:05 pm:

    Does anyone think a Chicago city income tax is in the cards?


  11. - Steve Bartin - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 12:10 pm:

    Questions for anyone concerning a city income tax. Would the Illinois state legislature have approve it? How likely is that?

  12. - Its Just Me - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 12:22 pm:

    Rich, the most under reported part of this craziness is that many of these “ideas” would require a change in state law. Lake Shore Drive is legally a state highway and federal law means it can’t change to a tollway. Also, even though Chicago is home rule, state law doesn’t let them charge an income tax, ESPECIALLY TO NON RESIDENTS! (taxation without representation)

  13. - Objective Dem - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 1:01 pm:

    One of the ironies of the situation is that the IG is doing the job of the Budget Office. If he wants an efficient and effective city, he shouldn’t perform the job of another department.

    There may be a handful of the suggestions that would be appropriate for him to study; but overall he is way out of his field.

  14. - chi - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 1:31 pm:

    “reduce the absurdly fabulous health benefits”

    Please describe what’s so fabulous about the health benefits, BelleAire, because I think you have no idea what you are talking about.

  15. - reformer - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 1:58 pm:

    The legislature would have to authorize the City to tax incomes of anyone who works in Chicago. That seems pretty unlikely, given how difficult it is to raise the state income tax. On the other hand, that supposed GOP tax nirvana called Indiana authorizes counties to impose their own income tax.

  16. - Objective Dem - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 2:37 pm:

    One of the dumbest proposals is “Eliminating all Tax Increment Financing Districts to increase tax revenues to the City’s general fund by an estimated $100 million annually” First of all, TIF is a legitimate economic development tool that works great if properly used. Second, eliminating TIFs will mean the City will lose hundreds of millions in TIF revenues. Seems like Mr. Ferguson doesn’t know much about economic development or budgeting.

  17. - Edison Parker - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 3:39 pm:

    First of all, TIF is a legitimate economic development tool that works great if properly used

    That’s a pretty big “IF.”

  18. - Objective Dem - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 4:06 pm:

    I happened to look at the org chart for the IG’s office. I would be interested in knowing how many supervisors he has that have limited number of staff reporting to them.

    For instance, the Director of Investigations has 4 people reporting to them, including a Ast. Director of Investigations. That Ast. has 3 Chief Investigators reporting to them. The Team 1 Chief Investigator has an Ast. Chief Investigator, 3 Supervising Investigators, and 5 other staff.

    Using supervisor to employee ratios is valid, but it is also complex and requires understanding the job duties. It doesn’t seem like his report reflects this complexity. And it doesn’t seem like he practices what he preaches.

  19. - Objective Dem - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 4:09 pm:

    Edison Parker, Its “throwing the baby out with the bath water.” Part of the problem is the Chicago Reader does not like TIFs and makes them out to be worse than reality.

  20. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 9:21 pm:

    OD, TIFS in Chicago were abused to give Daley an unaccountable slush fund. They robbed the schools of local money, putting more pressure on the state.

    Daley banked the TIF money, along with the proceeds from the sales of the Skyway and the parking meters (he wanted to sell Midway, too), to chase his Olympics whale. When he crapped out, he cashed his chips.

    Isn’t it amazing, after 20 years of conventional wisdom that Daley was the Irreplaceable Man, that life goes on, and maybe the city might get better management? We put up with a lot of stuff worshiping at the cult of personality.

  21. - wishbone - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 10:05 pm:

    Making city workers put in 40 hours. The guy is an ogre.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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