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The Case Against Aldermanic Control of Infrastructure Spending

Chicago’s alderman have control of millions of dollars of street resurfacing "menu money" for local projects. Inspector General Joe Ferguson argues that money would be better spent in a coordinated effort.
June 21, 2019, 11am PDT | Casey Brazeal | @northandclark
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Chicago’s Aldermen, who make up the city council, each have control over their own fund for infrastructure. Some see this as a bad use of resources. "Inspector General Joe Ferguson argued that a 'holistic approach to core infrastructure' would help the city 'realize significant savings for its taxpayers and the infrastructure they depend on,'" Fran Spielman reports for the Sun-Times.

The city has 50 wards, and by breaking the funding into 50 pieces the city erodes its power and is sometimes operates at cross purposes, Ferguson argues. Beyond the lack of coordination, there's also an issue of who gets what funds. "In an audit that sent shock waves through the City Council, Ferguson said the program was under-funded by $122.9 million a year and '…bears no relationship to the actual infrastructure needs' of each ward and includes significant 'funding disparities,'" Spielman reports.

Former Mayor Rahm Emanuel criticized the proposal of abolishing menu money as unrealistic, describing it as something some one might dream up while they "walk around with a glass of white wine."

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