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Mayor Calls Some Who Posted Budget Ideas On City Website

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After Mayor Rahm Emanuel took office in 2011, the city asked residents to go to the city website to submit ideas on how to balance the city's budget for 2012. (Photo credit: cityofchicago.org)

After Mayor Rahm Emanuel took office in 2011, the city asked residents to go to the city website to submit ideas on how to balance the city’s budget for 2012. (Photo credit: cityofchicago.org)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Mayor Rahm Emanuel asked for Chicago residents’ help in coming up with ways to balance the budget and the people have responded. More than 2,000 people have posted ideas on the city’s website.

CBS 2 has learned that the mayor has now begun reaching out to those offering the most promising ideas. And CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine spoke with some of the people who got the calls.

They were surprised, obviously. Imagine how you would feel if you got an email saying someone will be contacting you, then picked up the phone, and heard “Hello, this is Mayor Rahm Emanuel.”

“It threw me off a little bit. I was ready to talk about, you know, studies and statistics and instead, I was like ‘Uh, mayor, how are you?” said Kyle Hillman.

He was waiting for his big break as an actor when he went to the city website soliciting budget-balancing ideas and offered nine separate suggestions – including one plan for a paperless government.

More than 130 other people agreed with Hillman and so did the mayor.

“There’s 300 suggestions on that board and he called about this one, so I’m assuming that that means that he’s highly interested in it,” Hillman said.

The king – or so-called mayor – of the message board is Arash Amini, an Iranian immigrant who grew up on the North Shore and is now working with IBM’s Global Enterprise Program.

“The more you contribute to this website, you get points for all sorts of things and right now I have the most points, so I am technically the mayor of this website, the budget ideas website,” Amini said.

One of his ideas is for a web app for Chicago.

“It focuses pretty much on cutting out a lot of redundant overlap between departments and getting – just like a company does – when you go to their web app, you get exactly what you need,” Amini said.

For both Amini and Hillman, talking to the mayor was nice, but still not proof that their ideas or any of the others will be implemented.

“If you’re going to create a community of people suggesting things that help the city … some of those things have to be actually done or you will lose that community involvement,” Hillman said.

Some of the ideas are truly innovative, like taking the mayor’s push for preventive health care one step further to cut down on the abuse of all city emergency systems – police, fire, and medicine.

Others were the old standbys, like reducing the size of City Council, but if the mayor is really serious about truly reinventing city government, the ideas of these young entrepreneurs could be invaluable.

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