Chicago alderman taking no probabilities with coveted ward superintendent’s place

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has vowed to uphold the power that councilors value to select community leaders who can shape or destroy their political futures. But Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) takes no chances.

At Wednesday’s city council meeting, Hopkins plans to put in place an ordinance amending the law to clarify that the role of community leader is an exempt position from Shakman, where hiring and firing is controlled by the local city council.

Superintendents were hired by the Department of Streets and Sanitation, but were essentially elected by the city council.

“The appointing authority was not formally in the lay judge’s office. It was in Streets and San. It was just a courtesy that the department has followed expert advice over the years. That’s a problem. Informal processes don’t really work with Shakman’s consent decree, ”said Hopkins.

“We had a court-appointed observer for a period of time who made all of these decisions. The mayor did not always agree with them, going back to two mayors. And who says that at some point we won’t have another court-ordered monitor to check our Shakman compliance? … It just makes sense to clean it up and make sure the wording in the statutes is fully in line with the spirit of the Shakman Decree of Consent. “

The Shakman decree banned political considerations from hiring and firing in the city, although some positions are exempt. A federal commissioner was responsible for enforcing that ban, but a judge fired that observer in 2014 and the job fell to Joe Ferguson, the city’s soon-to-be-departing inspector general.

After a two-year review, Ferguson concluded that the station manager’s job title “does not meet the legal requirements for a Shakman-exempt designation and should therefore be subject to generally accepted standards and procedures, as well as bans on political factors,” the city’s recruitment plan. “

Lightfoot said last week it plans to stay away from that “third rail”.

However, Hopkins said he will not leave such an important issue to “the mayor’s judgment”.

“It is an important political position that in many ways can determine or destroy the reputation of a lay judge. If you maintain your community well, and the streets are plowed, the trash picked up, the trees cut, the graffiti removed, your constituents are likely to forgive you for many other things that you may not accept, “Hopkins said.

The Hopkins Ordinance turns long-standing practice into urban policy. It states that community leaders should “advise the council of the community to which they are assigned” on road and plumbing operations, “allocation of free infrastructure resources”, and a variety of other issues.

“On the recommendation of the local council, the Department of Streets and Sanitation recruits community leaders, provided that the individual meets the qualifications under this section and is otherwise eligible for employment with the city,” suggested Hopkins to state councils.

“The municipality council of the municipality to which the municipality leader is assigned can apply in writing to the Commissioner for Roads and Hygiene at any time to remove the municipality leader.”

For the first time, the ordinance also regulates qualifications for the profession.

The station managers must have “at least five years of professional experience in municipal waste collection, street cleaning or snow removal”, including three years “in a task-related supervisory function”. Either that or “an equivalent of education, training and experience”.

You must also have “a valid Illinois state driver’s license.”

This is especially important because Ald has been charged. Carrie Austin (34.) once hired her son Kenny as a station manager, even though he lacked a valid driver’s license, which would be necessary to drive on the station to the examination conditions.

In 2017, she argued that nepotism was nothing wrong with the hired person doing a decent job.

“If I can’t have someone to trust, who should I put there? Anyone lazy? … My people deserve better. And most of the people in our ward know my family pretty well, ”Austin said at the time.

“Why is it so wrong for you to have your family member, cousin, or whatever work? Are you saying that they don’t deserve to work either? . . . It’s so unfair that you beat us up all the time when we have our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, whoever is on the payroll. “

The day after the Sun-Times announced the hiring of Kenny Austin, Carrie Austin paid her son’s overdue child support and revoked his license.

Ferguson refused to comment on Hopkins’ arrangement.

In a press release accompanying his review, the outgoing Inspector General recommended that the Human Resources Department “immediately remove the station manager’s post from the” list of exempt titles “and implement” any future recruitment … in accordance with the city’s procedures and procedures “recruitment plan.”

That means minimum qualifications, a “competitive interview” to identify the “best qualified candidates” and forbid the intrusion of “political factors and considerations” into the selection process, he wrote.

“A misclassified position can negatively impact education, productivity and development, not only within the role itself, but also the public’s perception of political influence and bias,” Ferguson was quoted as saying.

“The Shakman exception only applies to titles with the power to issue guidelines or to include duties with a certain threshold of political sensitivity. The title of station manager has neither. “

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