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Mayoral Hopefuls Short On Budget-Cutting Ideas, For Now

Chicago City Council Chambers (CBS)

Chicago City Council Chambers (CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) - The mayoral appointee charged with rooting out waste and corruption is now taking aim at the mayor’s own budget, saying a quarter of a billion dollars is being wasted.

Aldermen and mayoral candidates alike are not amused, reports CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine.

In fact, some want Inspector General Joe Ferguson fired for blindsiding them, after giving not a hint of what was coming when he testified before the City Council last week.

The fallout from the IG’s recommendations overshadowed budget hearings that continued Monday morning. Aldermen were not thrilled with suggestions to reduce the number of firefighters, from five to four, on each rig to save $63 million. Other ideas include privatizing garbage pickup and recycling collection to save an estimated $100 million.

Finance Committee Chairman Ed Burke says there’s nothing new in the suggestions.

“Quite frankly, nothing in here plows any new ground,” he said. “These are all suggestions tossed around for many years and for one reason or another been rejected in the past.”

The firefighter staffing issue seems to be a sacred cow here, even though Los Angeles and New York get by with four-man crews — even among mayoral candidates trying to separate themselves from the crowded field.

“You do not want to be command personnel in the fire department calling the shots on the street without the manpower – that’s a bad thing, and that can endanger people,” Gery Chico said.

In fact, neither Chico nor any of the other candidates contacted Monday were prepared to put numbers to any proposed cuts they would make.

“I don’t think the next mayor should put together the 2012 budget now, before the 2011 budget is approved,” another candidate, City Clerk Miguel del Valle, said.

But none of the candidates seems to have much of an appetite for reducing the level of services voters have come to expect. Non-candidate Burke explained why.

Unless you’re willing to run the risk of a taxpayer backlash, by reducing police and fire, there are limited ways in which you can cut back on expenditures,” he says.

Contributing: CBS 2 political producer Ed Marshall.