Charge it to my account | Bleader

Charge it to my account

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Faced with the prospect of major budget cuts, some aldermen are now saying they’re willing to forgo their salary increases—but hands off their office expense accounts.

Aldermen use the accounts to pay for things like rent, utilities, supplies, newsletter printing, and sometimes staffers on top of the three they're already budgeted. (Committee chairmen get funds to hire additional people.) For the last couple years each alderman was allotted $33,280 to cover annual costs, a sum that many said was simply too small to run an office on; some who could afford to dipped into their political war chests for extra funds.

But last fall the Daley administration, needing votes for its package of tax and fee increases, agreed to boost the 2008 expense accounts to $73,280 apiece, at an additional cost to taxpayers of $2 million total. And now aldermen don’t want to go back to the old days of nine months ago. “That's money you use to add more staff or help your constituents,” 25th Ward alderman Danny Solis told the Sun-Times.

Solis is right on this one—at least, he could be right. One of the many reasons the City Council rubber-stamps the mayor’s agenda is that most aldermen don’t have the resources to be fully engaged legislators—they and their staffs spend most of their time dealing with neighborhood housekeeping such as parking regulations, business signage, and zoning requests. On the council floor aldermen merely say yes or no to the mayor’s proposals; coming up with their own takes extra research, legal expertise, and time that most simply don’t have—even if they were willing to use it.

Having the will is even more important than having the money, though, and it’s not at all clear that aldermen use the funds they already get as responsibly as they could.

According to expense reports submitted to the city’s finance department, aldermen spend their office funding on a range of stuff—from nice cars (SUVs have been quite popular) to long-distance phone calls (not itemized between business and personal use) to pizza (one office liked theirs with half plain cheese, half pepperoni).

What follows are summaries of the 2007 expenses submitted by three different aldermen from south, west, and north sides of the city. (Note: The totals for the first two are larger than $33,280 because some of the expenditures were later covered from another city account.)

 

Alderman 1

PHONE

 $ 10,234.40

COMPUTER CONSULTING

 $   7,200.00

RENT

 $   4,612.94

COMED

 $   4,117.64

CAR PAYMENTS

 $   3,718.96

GRAPHICS

 $   2,518.33

MISCELLANEOUS

 $   2,385.80

OFFICE SUPPLIES

 $   1,886.97

CAR GAS

 $   1,700.53

INTERNET

 $   1,310.42

LIGHTING FIXTURES / ELECTRICAL SUPPLIES

 $     884.21

BOTTLED WATER

 $     746.69

PEOPLES GAS

 $     720.39

NEWSPAPER SUBSCRIPTIONS

 $     482.35

PARKING TICKET

 $      40.00

 

 

Alderman 2

RENT

 $24,275.59

INTERNET

 $  4,667.84

PHONE

 $  4,292.14

COMED

 $  2,111.81

OFFICE EQUIPMENT RENTAL

 $  1,710.54

PEOPLES GAS

 $  1,443.13

OFFICE SUPPLIES

 $  1,235.90

ALARM SYSTEM

 $     203.70

 

 

Alderman 3

RENT

 $17,655.80

INTERNET

 $  3,518.99

COMED

 $  3,233.56

PEOPLES GAS

 $  2,175.82

PHONE

 $  1,728.33

OFFICE SUPPLIES

 $  1,625.33

MISCELLANEOUS EXPENSES

 $  1,220.87

OFFICE EQUIPMENT

 $     332.00

AIR CONDITIONING

 $     302.00

GRAPHICS / PRINTING

 $     247.00

RUBBER STAMPS

 $      34.00

 

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