Continuing a trend that has spanned much of his tenure as mayor, Chicago's Richard M. Daley announced today the privatization of another major city function.
Hiring for the city's Streets and Sanitation, Water, Aviation, Transportation and General Services departments would be turned over to private companies under a new plan Daley proposed Thursday at a downtown news conference.
"The people of Chicago need to have confidence in our procedure," Daley said, according to the Chicago Tribune, "and know that they have the same fair chance at getting a city job as everyone else."
The move comes five years after one of the most damning scandals of the Daley administration, the "Hired Truck" scandal. That fiasco, in which seven members of the mayor's cabinet either resigned or were fired, was based in part on investigations of corrupt hiring practices by the city government.
Instead of reforming government practices, Thursday's announcement reveals Daley's intention to turn the whole matter over to private industry. It reaffirms the mayor's faith in free enterprise to prove a more efficient and open manager of many city functions than the city itself.
In recent years, Daley has embarked on an aggressive campaign of privatizing a wide array of city assets. Among those successfully sold off to be managed by corporations include the Chicago Skyway, the downtown parking garages and -- perhaps most controversially -- the city's parking meters.
Opponents of the parking meter deal argue that the city negotiated a poor deal with Chicago Parking Meters, LLC: while the meters were leased for 75 years at a price of $1.15 billion, the Inspector General has argued that the city should have gotten at least $2 billion.
The money from the sale, which was supposed to be a "perpetual replacement fund" held by the city in perpetuity, was also raided within a year and shelled out to cover short-term costs in a budget shortfall.
And lawyers like Clint Krislov have argued that giving the company police powers to distribute tickets and restricting government ability to make laws governing parking, renders the deal illegal.
Still, despite protests against each of his efforts, Daley presses on with plans for further privatization. He continues to look at privatizing Midway Airport and is thought to have considered selling the city's water as well.
Today's announcement marks a privatization of a different color; a city function, rather than a service, is being sold off. But it will likely not be the end.
"The mayor said he hopes to eventually turn over virtually all city hiring to a private company," the Chicago Tribune reports.