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The [Monday] Papers

"Mayor Rahm Emanuel and top aides diverted more than $58 million away from Chicago Public Schools to help plug a budget hole at City Hall shortly after he took office," the Tribune reports.

"The extra cash went to the Chicago Police Department for unspecified security services provided before Emanuel was mayor - even though the school district offered no public accounting of what the money was paying for or a formal contract with the city for the work."

Okay, so I got a little confused reading this article the first time, but I'm not going to blame the Tribune because I'm not sure I was really bearing down on it. I'll try to do so now.

First of all, it's pretty clear that the mayor pulled a series of really slick moves - with disingenuous explanations. Let's get into it.

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"Mayor Rahm Emanuel and top aides diverted more than $58 million away from Chicago Public Schools to help plug a budget hole at City Hall shortly after he took office. The extra cash went to the Chicago Police Department for unspecified security services provided before Emanuel was mayor - even though the school district offered no public accounting of what the money was paying for or a formal contract with the city for the work."

So the budget hole was actually at the police department, caused by services provided by the schools for years that hadn't been paid for. So Emanuel decided to get CPD caught up. At least that's what I'm taking from this.

Oh, and CPD couldn't provide any specifics about just what those services were, and how much they cost. Somehow somebody came up with a number, though.

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"Now, with CPS facing a $480 million shortfall and threatening midyear teacher layoffs, Emanuel has pulled an about-face. The city is picking up the cost of officer patrols in schools at no charge to the district, a decision officials disclosed after the Chicago Tribune asked CPS questions about its police spending."

So now CPS will no longer have to pay CPD for cops in schools; City Hall will pay. Which is sort of the same as CPD paying, because CPD is obviously funded by City Hall. But I guess the mayor is saying we won't ding your current budget for it.

Oh, and also the Emanuel administration only acknowledged making this shift after the Trib started nosing around, even though the Most Transparent Administration In Chicago History just got done passing a budget.

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"The shift illustrates Emanuel's willingness to move money around based on where the financial crisis lies. CPS channeled the police money to City Hall to help balance the city's budget during a period when Emanuel had deemed raising property, sales or gas taxes politically and economically unpalatable as he faced a $636 million hole. At the time, CPS was able to deliver the money to the city as the district raised property taxes. Four years later, the opposite dynamic played out, as City Hall had hit up taxpayers for a windfall."

I'd say the shift illustrates something different: How shifty Rahm Emanuel is.

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"Emanuel communications director Kelley Quinn did not respond to questions about the sharp increase in payments CPS made to CPD as Emanuel worked to balance his first budgets as mayor. Instead, she e-mailed a statement.

"'The deployment of officers in schools has been an important component of our citywide safety strategy,' Quinn said in the statement issued Sunday. 'In recognition of the necessity of this continued partnership combined with CPS' dire financial situation, beginning this year, the city will incur the cost of officers to the schools which require them.'"

Once again, I ask: Why would any public official ever answer a reporter's questions when they know they can just e-mail a statement and get that published instead?

An e-mailed statement is the same thing as a press release. So now you're letting a press release answer your questions?

You might as well say "We have some questions about Topic A, will you send a canned statement over so we can put that in our story instead of actual answers?"

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"Prior to Emanuel's tenure, the district's annual payments to the police department were generally lower. During the 2004 through 2011 CPS budget years, the district paid an average of $8.6 million a year.

"During the four years before Emanuel was mayor, the police department received about $36.8 million from CPS. But since Emanuel took office, the payments increased sharply, with City Hall reeling in more than $100 million from CPS, records show."

Now why would that be? Honest question, because I really don't know. Truth in budgeting?

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"In February 2010, the Chicago Board of Education agreed to spend $32.8 million on CPD costs from 2009 to 2012. Officers would serve eight-hour stints at 97 schools. CPS started paying, according to city and school records. But when asked for a copy of the contract through an open records request, the school district said there wasn't one."

So how were the costs calculated? On a cocktail napkin?

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"Emanuel's hand-picked school board scrapped the less-costly 2010 agreement in favor of a new contract that would end up costing an extra $58 million."

Well of course they did.

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"Here's the math on that: In 2012, CPS agreed to pay $47 million for services provided between the 2009 and 2011 budget years and $26 million in 2013, though the district paid only $11 million that year, for a total of $58 million."

So the district paid $15 million less in 2013 than it had budgeted for? I don't understand the math on this.

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"The extra payments, the board said, were 'necessary to fully compensate CPD for charges associated with police services CPD has provided to the board since Jan. 1, 2009.'"

So the board decided to be super nice and go back and reimburse CPD for past services rendered for which there was no contract and no accounting for said services?

*

"Jadine Chou, the school district's chief safety and security officer, told the Tribune that CPS had to make good on bills it owed the police department.

"There were invoices prior to that totaling up to $57 million," Chou said. "That doesn't mean that those expenses all were incurred in one school year . . . But those payments would've been, again, for invoices prior to that time period."

But the invoices didn't specify what the charges were for?

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"The Tribune filed an open records request with the school district on July 31 for the invoices and other records. CPS acknowledged receiving the request but has not provided any records."

Emphasis mine, to emphasize that it's been three months since the Trib requested public documents the city is required by law to provide.

Oh, and didn't Chou just say there were invoices? Why not hand those over?

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"When asked why the district owed the lump sums to the police department to begin with, Chou responded, 'I couldn't explain that.'"

I have an idea: I'm going to invoice the city for lump sums! Apparently they just pay off the invoices with no questions asked.

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"[Former CPS CEO Jean-Claude] Brizard, who was in charge of the district at the time, recalled feeling a responsibility 'to do the right thing.'"

Wow, what an amazing case of selective magnanimity.

"Frankly, while the money issue was a difficult pill to swallow, I did not want that to come in between us," he said. "I knew it wouldn't have, because they're professionals - but our sister agencies, you want to do what's right."

So you knew the issue wouldn't come between CPS and CPD but you paid them off anyway because you were afraid the issue would come between CPS and CPD.

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"To help come up with the sudden request for tens of millions of dollars in additional payments, the district used close to $19 million that was earmarked to pay substitute teachers."

Oh, that's just lovely! At least they were doing the right thing!

*

"Just a few years after Emanuel aides insisted that the school district needed to pay more for police, the administration says that's no longer the case.

"Essentially, the rationale for why it makes sense is these are police officers who would be serving their community anyway," said Chou, the district's chief security officer.

"Potentially, the school serves as their assignment as a beat. So if you think of it that way, they're on duty serving the community as it stands."

Then go get that $58 million back! My God.

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BeachBook

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TweetWood
A sampling.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Push it real good.



Permalink

Posted on November 16, 2015


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