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City to Privatize Recycling Program

By Chuck Sudo in News on Mar 31, 2011 7:40PM

Mayor Daley's whirling dervish-like rush to tie up loose ends before Mayor-elect Emanuel takes office continues. Various media outlets are reporting that the city has signed a 10-year contract with Waste Management to privatize the city's ... well, let's be generous and say "dormant" instead of "practically nonexistent," recycling program. Which means that we will finally see a curbside recycling program in Chicago. And given Daley's history of forcing through privatizing plans like the Skyway and the parking meters, it's going to eventually cost us.

Lou Phillips, business manager of Laborers Local 1001, told the Sun-Times the recycling program will divide the city into six zones, with Waste Management getting four of the zones. One zone will go to Brackenbox, which provided the roll-off boxes that replaced hired trucks. Daley is reportedly rushing to get the ink dry on the plan by next month ahead of a union-backed plan to keep the recycling program in the city's control. The plan will require a two-thirds vote in City Council. Even though aldermen have been crowing about their nascent independence from Daley, does anyone think there will be resistance to the plan with Daley still in office and a host of possible outgoing aldermen following him, depending on the results of next week's runoffs?

Here's how Phillips explained the "damned if you do, damned if you don't" scenario to the Sun-Times:

“They don’t have money to pay my members overtime or holidays, but they can bring companies in to do recycling. It’s a kick in the ass to the people of Chicago and to my members. These are the guys who stood up and took comp time and furlough days. Now they’re giving our work away,” Phillips said.

“Maybe it’s one last sweetheart deal. But the citizens will be left holding the bag. You won’t have a city work force anymore. Eventually, you’ll have a 1-800 number to call for your problems. It could lead to fees. This contract will start out costing $600,000 a month. I don’t see the city being able to absorb the cost.”

Streets and Sanitation and Procurement Services spokespeople have offered no comment about a bid being a done deal, only that bids are being reviewed.