In the midst of Wednesday's City Council meeting, two members, powerful 14th Ward Alderman Edward Burke and 40th Ward Ald. Patrick O'Connor, introduced a new piece of legislation that would institute random drug testing of city employees and aldermen alike.
The legislation was proposed at least in part in response to an incident late last month involving a city Streets and Sanitation driver who drove his truck over a curb and onto a sidewalk, striking a group of people and injuring eight near the corner of Rush and State Streets in the Gold Coast. The driver, 61-year-old Dwight Washington, had a blood alcohol level of .183 at the time of the accident, police reported, and he now faces four counts of felony aggravated DUI and two counts of misdemeanor DUI.
If approved, the ordinance indicates it would protect city residents from "errors in judgment by city employees while on duty" and from "unnecessary risk of personal harm and inefficient use of their tax payer dollars" by identifying the presence of any alcohol or illegal drugs. Currently only police officers, firefighters and employees with commercial drivers licenses face random drug testing, but Burke noted in a press release that aldermen should be included as a sign of solidarity alongside other city employees because they "should lead by example."
Mayor Rahm Emanuel did not immediately indicate how he felt about the proposal in a press conference, according to WBEZ. The ordinance next will head to the Committee on Workforce Development and Audit, a committee O'Connor chairs.
The follows the Chicago Housing Authority's proposal last month to screen all of its residents and applicants 18 years or older for drug use, which its aldermanic authors view as part of "a national movement to require all welfare recipients to participate in drug screenings in order to obtain their benefits."
Tenant lawyers have described the CHA proposal as "a slap in the face" of those who live in subsidized housing. The proposal was heavily criticized in a public hearing held last week.