In an exclusive interview with Andy Shaw, president and CEO of the Better Government Association, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel touted his administration’s track record on ethics while acknowledging there’s more to accomplish on the reform front.  

Privatization of city services and assets can have a profound impact on the public; just look at Chicago’s infamous 2008 parking meter deal — a bad bargain that still stings and has become a rallying cry for reform.

Even so, a move to adopt an ordinance that would prevent a repeat of that disaster has been slow in coming.

Seeking to speed up that process, the Union League Club of Chicago (ULC), a major civic and cultural institution with a large business-oriented membership, passed a resolution last week calling on Mayor Rahm Emanuel to bring a privatization ordinance to the citizens of Chicago “without further delay.”

Emanuel’s administration has been working on its own version of a privatization ordinance since August.

But at a December BGA forum, the mayor publicly announced his intention to introduce an ordinance “in the next term” that would provide for a privatization review process modeled on the ad hoc effort that ultimately rejected the privatization of the Chicago Midway International Airport.

BGA’s policy team has been in discussions with the administration and has suggested provisions we think should be included in the Mayor’s version, in particular clarifying how the ordinance will apply to assets such as land and public facilities.

Meanwhile, a City Council ordinance on privatization, that 38 groups support, BGA included, is languishing. Despite having 32 aldermen as cosponsors, the Privatization Transparency and Accountability Ordinance (PTAO) has been stuck in City Council committee for over two years. It requires, before privatization is undertaken, a detailed cost-effectiveness study and one or more hearings on the study.

Any contracts must be awarded through a publicized competitive bidding process.

Last year, the BGA and other coalition members joined PTAO sponsor Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) in asking aldermen to sign a joint letter urging moving PTAO from the council’s rules committee and into another, more appropriate committee, for a hearing. While 27 aldermen got PTAO shifted from Rules to Workforce and Audit, it still hasn’t gotten a hearing.

We hear that City Hall is close to having an administration draft ordinance completed. We join the Union League in looking forward to seeing that proposal soon.

It’s been a long time. Too long.

Judy Stevens, BGA Policy Coordinator, wrote this post. Contact her at She’s on twitter @judystevensbga.