• Alex Nitkin
    Erin Hegarty
    OCT 22, 2021

    New contracting equity office, lead pipe replacement among grab-bag of budget changes up for committee vote

    One provision of the budget Management Ordinance set for approval on Friday would extend the authority of the Department of Water Management commissioner to replace the city's lead service lines. [Pexels] 

    Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s $16.7 billion budget plan is set to clear another major hurdle on Friday, as her administration’s more than 600-page budget appropriation ordinance (O2021-4238) comes up for a committee vote.

    But the Committee on Budget and Government Operations is also scheduled to consider a host of other budget-related proposals during its 1 p.m. meeting, including the administration’s “Management Ordinance” (O2021-4785). The ordinance would carve dozens of changes into the city code, including the creation of a new office designed to boost diversity in city contracts. Other provisions aim to boost lead pipe replacement, crack down on construction-related tree loss and overhaul contractor licensing requirements, among many others.

    Chicago will add a new contracting equity officer next year with a responsibility to “administer, enforce and ensure compliance with” the city’s Minority- and Women-owned Business Enterprise program, which is designed to carve out space for disadvantaged workers among firms that contract with the city or receive city benefits. The position will report directly to Chief Procurement Officer Aileen Velazquez.

    The procurement office’s new Office of Contracting Equity will come with 26 full-time positions, including the $130,000-per-year chief contracting equity officer, and an overall budget of nearly $2.4 million, budget documents show.

    The City Council voted last month to extend (O2021-2865) Chicago’s Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprise program through 2027 and expand it to make more firms eligible for the benefits.

    Related: Extension of minority contracting program clears committee with weeks to spare before expiration

    The Management Ordinance would also expand the powers of Department of Water Management Comm. Andrea Cheng to “create programs” to speed the replacement of the city’s lead service lines, including to “negotiate and enter into agreements” with building owners.

    Cheng told aldermen during her budget hearing this month that the department had so far only replaced 10 of the city’s approximately 10,000 lead lines, falling far short of goals previously set by the department and by Lightfoot.

    Related: Aldermen rail on water officials for lack of diverse contracting, slow replacement of lead lines

    The ordinance also makes nearly a dozen changes to rules surrounding the city’s licensing of general contractors, including who must apply for the licenses. It would add licensing requirements for anyone looking to undertake a “regulated activity,” including construction or demolition work. 

    But it would remove the licensing requirement for board-up companies, elevator mechanics, employees of plumbing and electrical contractors, land surveyors and “tenants performing nonstructural repairs at their homes.” It would also bar people from transferring ownership of general contractor licenses, and it would repeal existing city regulations for excavators and roofers. 

    The management ordinance includes the following other provisions: 

    • Making the city’s Department of Assets, Information and Services responsible for maintenance of Millennium Park, a responsibility currently held by the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.

    Assets department Comm. David Reynolds told aldermen during his budget hearing earlier this month that the department “will be taking care of security, landscaping, maintenance — the same thing we do for every other city-owned building.” But the cultural affairs department will keep control of programming and concessions at the park, he said.

    • A Expanding the city's definition of "tobacco product" as it applies to tobacco sale regulations so that includes all products containing nicotine, instead of just those derived from tobacco.

    An extension of the city’s requirements for prospective municipal depositories so that the same rules also apply to “institutions seeking to be designated as custodians of securities” for the city.

    • A provision expanding Department of Public Health Comm. Allison Arwady's authority by allowing her to expend grants to "address public health threats."

    • A requirement for the deputy commissioner for the city's Bureau of Forestry to authorize the installation of parkway trees within a year of a new small residential building being occupied.

    • A provision allowing the city to charge water bill rates based on water meter estimates.

    • A provision changing regulations for gas station owners by loosening trash pickup requirements but tightening rules around gasoline spill cleanup.

    The ordinance also puts into place Lightfoot's $5 million "human infrastructure" grant program that would pass along $100,000 for each alderman to disburse as they wish. The Aldermanic Black Caucus has pushed for the program to more than double to $12.5 million.

    Related:Aldermen rush to finalize budget tweaks on spending oversight, ‘human infrastructure’ as critical vote nears

    Spokespeople for Lightfoot and spokespeople for the city’s Department of Buildings, Department of Streets and Sanitation and Department of Planning and Development did not respond to requests for comment on Thursday.

    Budget recommendations

    Lightfoot introduced her 2022 budget plan one month ago, including in it her Chicago Recovery Plan, which is her proposal for using the city’s nearly $1.9 billion in federal pandemic-related stimulus funds and other new spending to recover from the pandemic.

    Related: Lightfoot reveals 'Chicago Recovery Plan' with guaranteed income plank as progressive groups take credit

    The plan would use a combination of $567 million in federal stimulus funds paired with $660 million in new borrowing to fund more than $1.2 billion in new initiatives, including programming dedicated to a guaranteed income program, public safety, affordable housing, violence prevention and regrowing the city’s tree canopy.

    Additionally, more than $1.3 billion in federal American Rescue Plan dollars would infuse the Chicago Recovery Plan to fund “essential government services,” including $782.2 million of eligible personnel and contractual costs in the 2021 budget and $385 million of “revenue replacement” to fund existing and new programs in 2022. A portion of an additional $56.3 million would go toward funding the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability, which aldermen approved in July.

    Progressive aldermen last week introduced eight proposals to amend Lightfoot’s spending plan including an ordinance (O2021-4773) authored by Ald. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33) to set aside $10 million to reopen the city’s shuttered mental health clinics.


    Rodriguez-Sanchez’s proposal would draw the $10 million from the $151 million in federal American Rescue Plan dollars currently budgeted to the Department of Public Health’s budget. While the proposal has support from more than half of the City Council, the proposed change does not sit well with public health Comm. Allison Arwady who sent a two-page letter to aldermen last week urging them to reject the “concerning” proposal. Arwady said in her letter that Rodriguez-Sanchez’s plan would take resources from the “Trauma-Informed Centers of Care network” the city is “weaving together” with funding from various sources. 

    Motor Fuel Tax Fund, salary resolution

    Aldermen are also set to vote on the ordinance (O2021-4757) appropriating funds from the Motor Fuel Tax Fund, including setting aside more than $87 million for the city’s Department of Transportation, nearly $14 million for the Department of Assets, Information and Services, more than $18.7 million for the Department of Streets and Sanitation and nearly $12.7 million for “eligible debt service payments and related costs and fees.”

    An intergovernmental agreement (O2021-4757) with the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and Cook County would allocate $3 million from Chicago’s Motor Fuel Tax Funds for the CTA to use as a matching grant under the Regional Transit Authority’s 2022 fiscal year.

    Also up for consideration on Friday is Lightfoot’s proposed salary resolution (R2021-1126), which in addition to authorizing the city comptroller to enter agreements “to implement a program allowing eligible employees to access earned, but unpaid, wages” would add Juneteenth to the list of official City holidays for both salaried and prevailing wage employees.

    The resolution also gets rid of the section requiring mandatory unpaid furlough days for employees earning over $100,000 in 2021.


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