Reporting Jay Levine
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CHICAGO (CBS) – It’s one of the oldest no-no’s in politics: no campaign signs on public property. In this case, an alderman putting out trash cans and recycling bins in his ward, with his picture on them, while running for ward committeeman.
CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine has exclusive details on an investigation by the city’s inspector general’s office.
Ald. Proco Joe Moreno (1st), running for ward committeeman, has apparently been helping a contractor break the law by placing trash and recycling containers without a permit, then accepting campaign contributions in return.
New “Free Green Can” recycling containers in Chicago’s 1st Ward, on the Northwest Side, were introduced with great fanfare by Moreno. They even feature his picture on them.
There’s only one problem. Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein said the alderman does not have authority to place such trash containers on city sidewalks without a permit from CDOT. Klein said the containers in this case don’t have that permit.
In fact, CDOT has ticketed both the trash container company and the companies who advertise on them, like PepsiCo. The ticket issued to PepsiCo was later dismissed at an administrative hearing, because they should have been issued against Free Green Can.
Moreno has not been cited, although he apparently gave company officials the go-ahead to install them and sell advertising as described in their web video.
According to the video, “hosts can co-brand the Free Green Can with their logo, and sponsors can customize their messages.”
Sponsors on those recycling bins include Moreno, who first claimed he “paid for the ad”, then said he “will pay for it”, and now calls it – at least in part – a “campaign contribution,” which will be appropriately reported.
Jesse Ruben Juarez, the 1st Ward Democratic Committeeman, said Moreno’s ads on the trash bins amount to politicking.
Juarez is running against Moreno in his bid to be re-elected 1st Ward committeeman. He raised some of the same questions the city has.
“We don’t know who’s picking up the trash,” he said.
City Streets and Sanitation Department crews pick up trash and recycling from legal street bins.
“Free Green Can is partnering with the largest waste haulers in the U.S.,” according to the company’s video.
But contacted the waste hauler listed on the Free Green Can website, they said, “it’s not us.”
After calling and emailing company officials, to no avail, CBS 2 visited the address they gave on their website, a residential four-flat in Uptown. There was no one home.
“Conceptually, the idea seems like a good one, but when you go about implementing it, you’ve got to go through the proper channels with the city,” Klein said. He said that was not done in this case.
Moreno is usually eager to speak with reporters, but not this time.
However, he still says that, after giving the company the go ahead to place the containers, and sell advertising on them – and taking some freebees for himself – he also intends to advocate for the company in meetings he’s set up with city officials next week.
–CBS 2 Political Producer Ed Marshall contributed to this report.