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Chicago May Actually Hire People to Watch How the City Spends Money

But did the City Council budget enough for the budget analysis office it proposed?

Photo: José M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune

Aldermen Ameya Pawar (47th), Michele Smith (43rd), and Pat Dowell (3rd) are proposing the unthinkable: wresting power from Rahm. For audits, at least.

As the City Council debates the 2014 budget this month, these three are working to approve an independent budget analysis office. The office would review legislation and provide nonpartisan advice on pretty much anything involving money. The mayor’s office currently provides aldermen with budget information.

The idea is to get an outside perspective on the wisdom of, say, privatizing the city’s parking meters before a deal is brokered. “[We would] no longer rely on the fifth floor to craft public policy,” Pawar says. “This is making sure City Council has the tools to do its job well and to make sure we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past.”

It will work, though, only if the office has an adequate budget. Here’s how much three other cities with auditors have spent and how much Chicago’s aldermen want.

City Population 2012 budget
New York 8.3 million $4.3 million
San Diego 1.3 million $1.7 million
Pittsurgh 306,000 $211,000
Chicago 2.7 million $500,000
(Proposed budget for 2014)

“This is double the number Mayor Emanuel [suggested],” Pewar says, “[but] we are confident we can secure funding at this level.”


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