Street Sweeper Rebellion Brewing In City Council
But, perhaps not this time.
Last Tuesday, just eight days from the traditional April 1st start of the Chicago street cleaning season, the administration decided to make a drastic change to how city streets get cleaned.
For decades, street cleaning was under the control of each of the 50 alderman and their ward’s Street and Sanitation Supervisor. With one street sweeper designated per ward, the two parties would put together a detailed schedule to make sure their ward got the proper amount of street cleaning per season.
But the mayor, facing a severe budget shortfall, and a shortage of street sweeper drivers due to layoffs, decided to switch street cleaning to a grid system. While on its face, the new system seems more efficient, alderman are complaining that the new plan will reduce the number of street cleanings by almost half in many cases and not allow for the type of flexibility needed to sweep on demand after street festivals, after running events, or even after traffic accidents.
But the city council seems to be pushing back.
Alderman Joe Moore (49), Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22) and Ald. Willie B. Cochran (20) are leading the street cleaning revolot by calling a special session of the city council on Wednesday, March 31 to try stop the mayor’s plan in its tracks the day before street cleaning is due to begin.
Moore tried to raise the issue on Friday at another special session that was originally just for the swearing in of two new aldermen, but the push was quickly shut down.
“It’s really a misguided plan,” explains Moore. “It will result in a nightmare, especially along the lakefront where parking is at a premium.”
According to Moore, the grid system increases the size of the area that will be swept at any given time, making it harder for drivers who have to move their cars to find safe and legal spaces to park their vehicle while street cleaning is occurring.
“Where are all those folks going to put their cars?” says Moore. “They may have to park blocks, if not a mile away from where they live. If they don’t move they’ll receive tickets or if the city doesn’t ticket, streets won’t get swept.”
But Matt Smith, spokesperson for Streets and Sanitation doesn’t feel the problem is as severe as Moore portrays.
“We’re trying to be as realistic as possible and we’ll be in each grid for a couple of days,” explains Smith. “We’re looking at this issue and are continuing to work with the wards. The grid system makes sense.”
Vi Daley (43), another alderman with a lakefront ward, is also troubled by the mayor’s plan. Her ward contains the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Peggy Notabart Nature Museum and is home to many summer festivals and running events.
Ald. Daley has been communicating with Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Thomas Byrne on the issues particular to her ward.
“This should have been done before this. The timing wa not good,” says Daley about the rushed nature of this plan. “I don’t think they knew about all the issues we had. They’re (Streets & Sanitation) are going to come back to us in a few days with some solutions.”
According to Ald. Moore, Streets and Sanitation management is going to present the most up to date plan to Ward Superintendents this afternoon.
32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack, like Ald. Daley is concerned about the speed of this gear shift. Waguespack’s staff had already spent considerable time notifying residents of their ward’s street cleaning schedule before Daley announced his plan. Now, all previous ward street cleaning schedules have been scrapped with a new citywide schedule being finalized for early this week according to Smith.
In addition, Waguespack’s ward won’t see any street cleaning for an entire month under the new proposed grid schedule.
“I’m not opposed to the idea behind the grid system,” says Waguespack. “I just wish they had come to us back in November to see what we could do.”
Moore says alderman are going to be calling on the budget office to provide the funds necessary to keep street cleaning under the control of the aldermen and likens this situation to the mayor’s short lived plan to reduce the use of salt on icy streets last winter.
“This goes to the absolute core duty of an alderman to pickup garbage and keep the streets clean,” explains Moore. “It’s robbing us of our ability to provide these core services to our constituents.”
The special session of the city council is scheduled to begin at 10:30 on Wednesday.