Monday, September 12, 2005

How the City that works---works. A Chicago Primer

As of this writing, the city of broad shoulders is awash in political scandal after political scandal. Water department employees selling drugs on city time, patronage hiring outside of the Shakman Decree (legislating political hiring and firing in Chicago) and a hired truck program that allegedly steered city business to influentially connected firms. In return, among other things, those businesses gave kick backs to those who got the firm’s foot in the door. This wave of scandals have led to an uprising among Chicagoans and cast doubt on Mayor Daley’s future.

We here in Chicago don’t so much mind the everyday corruption but when both the city and the county keep on talking about budget shortfalls and our property taxes triple, well my friends---people look a tad harder at scandals that waste taxpayer money.

Plus it also goes to the fairness issue. I don’t want to sound like Pollyanna here but folks seem to get pissed about a handful of connected people getting fat off of the public trough while the rest of us can’t even get a seat at the table. Not only can’t we get a seat, but we also have to pay---through our outrageous tax bills might I add---for the privilege of NOT being connected. Nutty, huh?

The best exchange to describe how the city that works---works is this oft recited ditty:

Political Boss: “Who are you? Who sent you?”
Applicant: “No one sent me.”
Political Boss: “I don’t want to talk to somebody that nobody sent.”

Why is this important?

Perhaps that can start to explain why it’s so painfully slow to get permits from the Department of Construction and Permits for the City of Chicago (DCAP). Frankly it’s getting even slower as the department is awash in it’s own little scandal.

Apparently someone in the department didn’t think it was a problem that some real estate developers take a few DCAP staffers on all expense paid trips to exotic locales. This individual also didn’t think that a conflict of interest would occur between the people trying to get permits pushed through paying for vacations that a city paycheck couldn’t provide for the people doing the approving. Go figure.

More’s the pity---that person lost his job and as a result the construction permit process for everybody in the City of Chicago has practically ground to a halt.

Smooth move ex-lax.

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