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Midway contract criticized

Friday, Feb 17, 2017

* I’ve known Becky Carroll a long time. She brings tons of children’s toys every year for my annual December toy collection drive for Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (100 two years ago, 50 this past December). We’ve had our differences (whew), but I’ve had more with others. It’s the way of the world. She was recently brought on by the JB Pritzker campaign and I was told shortly thereafter that she would only be there temporarily while they searched for a permanent spokesperson. They are a bit Rahm-heavy over there.

Anyway, the way Chicago works, whenever one connected person wins a contract, he or she almost undoubtedly beat out a bunch of other clouted people [ADDED: Click here for the list of insiders who also bid], so this isn’t all that unusual

A major contract for updated and expanded concessions at Midway Airport cleared an initial hurdle Thursday despite questions about the involvement of a political operative who has worked for Mayor Rahm Emanuel and former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

The mayor has pitched the lucrative, 15-year deal as a way to create new jobs, increase the Southwest Side airport’s concession area by more than 50 percent, boost city sales tax collections and increase the amount of involvement of minority- and female-owned businesses.

One of the new businesses that would take part in the spoils is C-Strategies, a public affairs and strategic communications company run by Becky Carroll. She used to work at the Emanuel-controlled Chicago Public Schools and also ran a political action committee aligned with the mayor. Before that, she was a spokeswoman for Blagojevich, the former governor now serving a federal prison term for political corruption. […]

Tiffany Green, managing deputy commissioner for the Department of Aviation, said Carroll would “provide day-to-day management consulting services” related to inventory and warehouse audits, marketing objectives and policies, outreach and employee recruiting.

Seems like she could handle that, particularly with the kind of dough that could flow from the project. There’s an appearance issue for sure because of the Emanuel connection. But we’d have to know which firm(s) she beat out to really understand if she’s deserving.

* This, however, could be problematic

In city economic disclosure statements, Hudson Group — a major retail company that’s part of the joint venture — also lists C-Strategies as being paid $25,000 for five months of lobbying work. But Carroll, who’s not registered as a city lobbyist, said she has done no lobbying work to get the contract approved.

The Hudson Group told the Tribune that the city economic disclosure was in error. She hasn’t done lobbying before, so I hope the company is right because you can’t lobby in exchange for a piece of the action in this state.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Wow - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 11:13 am:

    Terrible B S contract award. The lack of vision from the City of Chicago Dept of Aviation is a nationwide joke.. a new 15 year contract for concessions at Midway, and there will NOT be a Starbucks in the entire airport..

  2. - Anon - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 11:14 am:

    Becky is solid. Hudson really messed up with their filing. Becky is too smart and too honest to try to skirt the rules. Its just not who she is.

  3. - Texas Red - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 11:16 am:

    More pay to play….”Chicago Forward, an independent expenditure committee that supports the mayor’s agenda, reported contributions of $86, addition to rent, office expenses and salaries for staffers Becky Carroll and Will Caskey, Chicago Forward paid $10,000 to the Democratic Party of Illinois for something called “Votebuilder.”

  4. - Jose Abreu's last homer - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 11:18 am:

    Congrats on the payoff Becky. I checked her LinkedIn and C-Strategies page and do not understand this but I’ve never had clout.

  5. - Anonymous - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 11:30 am:

    Becky is one of the best in the business. Period. High integrity, tough and smart.

  6. - Smalls - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 11:40 am:

    This isn’t a question of whether or not Becky is qualified. This is rather about how the city just hands contracts to connected people instead of going through a public bidding/proposal process. If she is that good, and offers the most, then she should get the contract. If someone else offers more, they should get it.

  7. - Rich Miller - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 11:44 am:

    ===instead of going through a public bidding/proposal process===

    There was one because I know somebody who lost out.

  8. - frisbee - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 11:45 am:

    Red, Votebuilder is a database software for tracking registered voters and their contact info. Just about all serious campaigns use it these days.

  9. - Arthur Andersen - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 11:53 am:

    That’s one strange combination of duties. Inventory management, marketing, outreach, and recruitment.

    Color me skeptical.

  10. - Annoinin' - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 11:56 am:

    Capt Fax tried to make the point, but did not go quite far enough. It is likely that all of the RFPs submitted for this venture were scored, involved folks with close ties to those in power and would have resulted in the same story with difference names.
    One might suggest the lack of a Starbucks at this point probably means their demands were predictably too high. When SB realizes what they are missin’ look for a revised request.
    BTW good for Becky.

  11. - Truthteller - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 12:01 pm:

    The internet has its hackers and city contracts come with hacks. Becky is one of them.

  12. - Rocky Rosi - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 12:05 pm:

    It’s the Chicago way. Nothing to see, move alone.

  13. - m - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 12:07 pm:

    Probably part of the problem is that to most people “day-to-day management consulting services related to inventory and warehouse audits, marketing objectives and policies, outreach and employee recruiting” sounds like a mish mash of jobs that don’t fit together and thus see this as something just created to be a prize for connected people. Like getting appointed to a paid spot on a board that meets once a year.

    Not saying this isn’t legit, but when you constantly read about connected people getting big ambiguous contracts, if you’re not on the inside it’s easy to put a tinfoil hat on.

  14. - DuPage Bard - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 12:27 pm:

    So all Government contracts should always be someone who’s never done anything in the government field and has never met anyone? Never had experience dealing with the varieties and nuances of navigating the Government relationship? No clues into what the rules and differences are for Government and private business?
    I will bet every other vendor out there had someone who works for them who knows someone?
    If they do an RFP and have multiple qualified bids that are then scored and chosen based on the criteria, what else do people suggest?

  15. - Chicago Guy - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 12:29 pm:

    I remember this being bid out and an article on how the competing teams all had people with “clout.” So this isn’t about Becky getting an insider sweatheart deal.

    I think too often people dismiss the skill set of understanding and balancing local stakeholder needs. They consider it being a “hack” when in reality it is very difficult and takes experience and skills. She is going to have to balance the needs of travelers with local businesses and local people looking for work.

    If you want to hire a firm that will be run concessions with no consideration of local stakeholders, you will likely end up with a Starbucks as suggested. But why should our airports look like a mall/airport anywhere in the US? Instead, I support the approach Becky’s firm used which was bringing in Intelligencia - a Chicago based coffee shop. They may never rival Starbucks - but providing them with exposure at the airport can help them expand and bring money/jobs to Chicago.

  16. - JoeMaddon - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 12:32 pm:

    **Carroll would “provide day-to-day management consulting services” related to inventory and warehouse audits, marketing objectives and policies, outreach and employee recruiting.**

    Becky is a comms person. Pretty much her entire resume is doing PR. How does the have the background and qualifications to do anything on that list other than marketing and outreach. Inventory and warehouse audits? HR?

  17. - Jose Abreu's last homer - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 12:45 pm:

    Is this Rahm’s gift like the Lou Bertuca wedding gift from Gov Quinn? Looks like Lou is still at the Illinois Stadium Authority even though I thought it was a two year stint. Anyone know if Rauner appointed anyone in his place? (I tried google and found nothing on this)

  18. - Smalls - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 12:48 pm:

    If there was a public bidding/proposal process, then those bids or proposals should be public information that anyone can FOIA and see if everything is on the up and up.

  19. - LizPhairTax - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 12:49 pm:

    Tiffany Green, managing deputy commissioner for the Department of Aviation, said Carroll would “provide day-to-day management consulting services” related to inventory and warehouse audits, marketing objectives and policies, outreach and employee recruiting.

    Spin, sister.

  20. - Been There - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 12:49 pm:

    Sounds like the other bidders hired well connected lobbyist also. You could have wrote this story no matter who won the bid.

  21. - Good Govt Reporting - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 1:12 pm:

    Anyone who has worked or interacted with Becky Carroll over her 20-year career knows she conducts herself with integrity in every area of her work. In addition she is a smart and tough comms professional who treats reporters with respect. It was an unfortunate reporting error that in no way says anything about her work or character. And am just not sure the implications made in this post are appropriate to make.

  22. - Jackie - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 1:45 pm:

    She learned how to game the system from the best, so this is no surprise. Excusing it because she’s nice and was great to work with is why people don’t trust the press or government.

  23. - Illinoisvoter - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 1:58 pm:

    Never sold Hudson’s because they purchase though
    New York, but working with other corporations that sell on the other side of airport security am very aware that there are unique challenges
    that are created by this environment and best
    resolved not with clout but with organization and
    good preparation just the services C-Strategies

  24. - Doug - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 3:10 pm:

    Who is surprised? This just isn’t Chicago, it’s all over the country, these concession contracts go to the well connected….and it’s wrong.

    How to get around it? Lease the space like the private sector. Quit putting all these BS rules and limits on MBE, WBE, etc. Let the folks that know how to run a business run a business. And then guess what? You won’t be paying $12 for a coke at an airport.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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