03/01/2012 11:07 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

A Garbage Story

On February 28, CBS aired a story they received from my opponent for committeeman (as confirmed by the CBS producer), that, among other things, accused me of having "campaign" signs on garbage cans that don't have proper permits.


Last June, I met with executives from Free Green Can, a company that has a contract with the Chicago Park District for 2,000 cans in our city's parks (this "background" information was left out by CBS). The executives were interested in expanding the program to the neighborhoods and wanted to run a pilot program in Wicker Park.

I jumped at the opportunity to have these curbside garbage and recycling containers, which wouldn't cost Chicago taxpayers a penny, installed in the 1st Ward. The company collects the trash and recycling and maintains the cans. Just to reiterate -- these cans are installed, maintained and picked up at zero cost to taxpayers and provides on-street recycling, which currently does not exist.

Twenty of these cans were installed in Wicker Park last September and I held a ribbon-cutting ceremony. I invited all Chicago-area press, including CBS, who chose not to report this story. Since September, the feedback I've received about these cans has been overwhelmingly positive. Any time there was graffiti on one of these cans, it was gone within 24 hours. More importantly, I've never seen these cans overflow and 1st Ward residents, community groups and SSAs are all in favor of expanding the program. I instructed Free Green Can to get the proper public way permits and it's my understanding that they are in this process. Obviously, we have rules for businesses and they have to be followed.

Two days ago, we received a call from a CBS producer who wanted to know why my picture was on these twenty cans. He described it as a "campaign" advertisement, which is prohibited in the public way. I fundamentally refute this description of the advertisement, which was designed to show my support for this innovative product. These advertisements were designed to be a form of outreach to let the 1st Ward constituency know that my office is here to be a useful resource.

Why CBS insists these ads are political is beyond me (well, not really, but I'll get into that later) -- nothing on them says "vote for me, etc." These ads give the contact information to my city service office. I'm constantly trying to get the word out that my office is a there for anyone to come for help with anything.

Regardless of their obvious inconsistency (accusing me of playing politics, when they got this story from my political opponent), CBS decided to throw out this sloppy story, full of accusations about my motivations. Evidently, they thought it more compelling to have their reporter stake out a company executive, instead of reporting facts about my intention, the community's opinion and other aldermanic support (the program operated by Free Green Can is supported by 14 other aldermen).

Immediately after they spoke to my campaign opponent, the video cuts to Streets and Sanitation workers collecting trash from "big-belly" bins, which are installed downtown (mostly around City Hall). These trash cans cost taxpayers $6,200 a piece, not including the continuous cost of labor to pick the trash up every time they are full. Regardless of their exorbitant expense, these receptacles have many issues, and do you think for one second that these expensive and problematic containers would be installed anywhere but downtown -- in Wicker Park or Englewood?

I learned earlier that the company has decided to pull the cans out of the 1st Ward and the CEO went on CBS last night to announce this. I understand why they have decided this and support their decision. Hopefully, this sparks a discussion about curbside trash and recycling collection in our city; a discussion that has been getting bogged down by bureaucracy for at least three years.

Free Green Can is an innovative company and the neighborhood, which I have the honor to represent, is the most innovative and unique part of our great, but bureaucracy-laden, city. I've used political funds (and my own money) to plow streets and alleys during the blizzard of 2011, to remove graffiti and to fill potholes in the 1st Ward. If the city can't adequately provide these basic city services for my community, I will. As long as I am alderman, I will continue to look for innovative solutions to the problems we face.