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Emanuel Pulls Plan To Privatize 311

By aaroncynic in News on Oct 21, 2015 4:24PM

Photo credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images
As the city inches closer to approving a budget, one controversial plan proposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been taken off the table after receiving serious opposition by aldermen and a local union.

Emanuel decided to pull his plan to privatize the city’s 311 system Wednesday morning, the Sun-Times reports. Last month, Emanuel said that by outsourcing the service to a private company the city would save “a million dollars each year,” and that the city didn’t have the money to upgrade it, which he estimated the city would be $40 to $50 million.

“There’s also a capital expenditure that only a private operator can do,” Emanuel said in September, according to the Chicago Tribune.

But many aldermen and the American Federation of State and Municipal Employees, the union that represents 311 workers, were opposed to the measure, especially given the history of previous privatization fails in Chicago. “Why set our city up for the neglect, poor service and shoddy results that we know would result from privatizing this service?,” wrote Ald;s Chris Taliaferro, Milly Santiago, and John Arena in an op-ed published on Monday by the Sun-Times. The aldermen specifically called out LAZ Parking Systems, the private company that now operates Chicago’s parking meters, along with some garages.

“City employees have allegiance to their communities. They live in the city as required by law, and they are invested personally and professionally in their jobs. The same can certainly not be said of the contractors, who may be based anywhere on the planet — like the Dubai-based owners of LAZ Parking Systems. We have all dealt with a call center operator thousands of miles away to ask a computer question. They might be perfectly intelligent, well-intentioned people, but when it comes to city services you want someone who knows your city to address your concerns.”

Privatizing the systems would also cost jobs, read a letter signed by both AFSCME and 36 Aldermen opposed to the measure, according to the Chicago Tribune. “This is not only harmful to the affected individuals and their families but sends the wrong message to all those who wonder if our city's leadership truly is committed to creating good family-supporting jobs in our city,” it read.