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On Monday, while aldermen battled with the city’s chief financial officer over whether to mandate a waiting period before the sale of a city asset like the parking meter system, Manny Flores suggested that something stronger and more specific was needed.
“I think it would be prudent to develop a protocol for these transactions,” he said. “If we’re not given the proper information, no matter how much time we’re given, we can’t make an informed decision.” Aldermen should make sure they get an analysis from “a third party separate from the executive branch,” he said.
The finance committee ended up approving the 15-day waiting period, but on Tuesday inspector general David Hoffman released his scathing report on the parking meter deal. It included recommendations for improving the council’s oversight that were in the same spirit as Flores's, arguing it would be most effective for aldermen to examine privatization deals for at least 60 days after the terms had been set but before bids were solicited. The 60-day study period should include analysis by an outside party, council hearings, and votes on “(i) whether the public asset should be leased under appropriate terms, and (ii) if so, what the proper terms of a lease should be.”
While Berny Stone and Leslie Hairston were trading insults during yesterday’s council meeting, Flores and aldermen Pat Dowell, Brendan Reilly, and Richard Mell were introducing an ordinance that would turn the suggestions into law.
In an interview, Flores brushed off criticism from Stone and Ed Burke that he and his colleagues shouldn’t need a law to review things before they vote on them.
“Given all the responsibilities and the day-to-day workload of a City Council member, it’s important that we put a framework to make sure we have some process in place—and to inform the executive branch that we need to be seen as an equal,” Flores said. “It’s more than saying, ‘Oh, we should have done this before.’”
But not everyone was impressed with the idea, including some of the other aldermen expressing remorse for signing off on the meter deal so quickly in December. Tom Allen, sponsor of the waiting period ordinance, shrugged when asked if he was behind the Flores proposal.
“I’m OK with having a hearing on it—I’m OK with having hearings on anything,” he said.
Allen wasn’t convinced that anything but his ordinance was needed. And he certainly wasn’t moved by Hoffman’s report or recommendations: “What is he, the wizard of Oz?”