Last fall Mayor Daley pushed a budget plan through the City Council that included fee and tax hikes as well as hundreds of layoffs. It was painful, he said, but necessary to “keep Chicago moving forward.”
Now, as administration officials are talking about another soaring deficit, it’s increasingly clear that the vast majority of the last round of cuts left city government with fewer people at the front line of delivering services. Among the reductions were dozens of police officers.
Meanwhile, many of the city’s top paid officials have received raises.
I'm not saying the government didn't need to cut some fat before, or that it doesn't still. But when I took a close look at the city payroll from last August, before the layoffs, and one from this month, a few things jumped out:
· The total number of employees on the payroll fell by 1,517, from 38,702 to 37,185.
· The number of deputy and assistant superintendents, middle managers, supervisors, program directors, and assistant program directors dropped, by my count, by 134.
· Front-line workers and support staff accounted for the rest of the pink slips. Among the biggest losses are people who would normally be picking up trash, helping fix potholes, and trying to prevent car accidents: traffic control aides (249 jobs); hand laborers (146); cement mixers (91); asphalt helpers (56); sanitation laborers (51); crossing guards (40); tree trimmers (27).
· It’s generally considered a political no-no to cut the budget for public safety, but the administration did it anyway. While city officials have said most of the losses were civilian positions, not all of them were. The force is now working with 52 fewer field training officers, which the police union considers essential for turning rookies into good cops. It’s also down 76 police officers, 30 sergeants, and 23 lieutenants.
· Ironically, or perhaps not, the highest-paid city employee is police superintendent Jody Weis, who makes about $310,000 annually. He’s followed by Mayor Daley, who receives $216,210. Both make the same now as they did last year.
· But many other top city officials have received a raise.
o Fire chief Raymond Orozco went from $185,652 to $189,660 when Daley put him in charge of the Office of Emergency Management Communications. But the guy who lost the job running OEMC--that is, Weis--didn’t have his pay cut.
o Orozco’s top deputy, John Brooks, got a raise from $172,452 to $185,652 when he assumed day-to-day management of the fire department.
o Daley’s press secretary, Jackie Heard, went from $172,065 to $177,216.
o Public health commissioner Terry Mason received a pay hike, from $171,996 to $177,156, even as he’s announced the closing of mental health clinics that serve the indigent.
o Corporation counsel Mara Georges is now making $173,664, up from $168,600, while Chicago is a national leader in lawsuit payouts.
o Former CTA head Frank Kruesi, now Daley’s chief lobbyist in Washington, had his salary boosted from $167,808 to $172,848.