On May 12, City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz announced an initiative to review City operations “in light of pending budget issues with the state of Illinois.” In addition to recombining the Public Works and Utilities departments, City staff also studied police and fire emergency response, livability, and human services department functions.
The City announced the results of months of work studying reorganization on Aug. 31. While significant changes are afoot on the public works side, changes in other departments appear to be far more modest. (See related story on page 3.)
Fire Chief Greg Klaiber and Police Chief Richard Eddington said at the Aug. 31 special meeting of the City Council that they would essentially keep emergency management, public safety, and community relations the same, suggesting only minor tweaks.
Chief Eddington thanked Parking and Revenue Manager Ricky Voss for his assistance, saying the working group took a “more citywide global approach to the issues that we face.”
Chief Klaiber called his suggestion a “new model” of emergency management, with more and greater cooperation with other agencies such as Northwestern’s Police Department, but the core emergency management function remains in the Fire Department. Each department will hold regular emergency-management-contact meetings to “break down any silos that may have been” obstructing cooperation in the past, he said.
The only restructuring announced is the creation of a new division chief position within the fire department. There are currently three division chiefs, but a fourth division chief for special services and emergency operations will be added.
Currently, the three division chiefs are in charge of life safety, training, and fire prevention/emergency management. The third position is currently open with the retirement of Deputy Fire Chief Tom Janetske. The titles and responsibilities of the reorganized division chiefs will be announced by year end.
“We will move forward with that reorganization over the coming months and have this in place before the end of the fiscal year,” said Mr. Bobkiewicz.
Next, Sustainability Manager Catherine Hurley, along with Community Development Director Mark Muenzer, announced the results of a review of the City’s various livability initiatives. Two significant changes are in the works.
Mr. Muenzer said the City would create a “consolidated permits center within community development” at the Civic Center. A resident pulling a building permit at the Civic Center will often need a right-of-way permit or tree permit at the same time. Rather than requiring the resident to go to three different offices, the consolidated permit desk can issue all permits at once and from the same place.
Secondly, Ms. Hurley announced a “DAPR-style” review process for all City projects. The DAPR (Design and Plan Review) committee replaced SPAARC (Site Plan and Appearance Review Committee) last year, streamlining the process by limiting the members. “One thing I like about DAPR is it got the right people in the room for the right project, versus just having everybody show up and giving opinions,” said Mr. Muenzer.
DAPR will be made up of members from each City department touched by the project at issue. The process will be “much more efficient,” said Ms. Hurley, and “is modeled after what we’re doing for private development.”
Finally, the intergovernmental affairs coordinator within the City Manager’s office is moving to the Community Development division as a new “mobility services” staff person. The new position will “not only … deal with CTA, Metra and PACE,” but also oversee “the implementation of transportation” initiatives such as DIVVY bike and similar programs, said Ms. Hurley and Mr. Muenzer.
The position will be open in October, as Ylda Capprisioso, currently in the City Manager’s office as the governmental affairs officer, is leaving the City to move out of state. Mr. Bobkiewicz said he would bring back the “Assistant to the City Manager” position once held by Joe McRae in the City Manager’s office.
Finally, the Human Services reorganization announced by Director Evonda Thomas-Smith, who worked with Mr. Muenzer in the evaluation phase, appears to be a report of Township-City consolidation rather than a new reorganization.
“Many of us have worked on the same family case, and it’s just unfair that families are touched by five different people to resolve one issue when one person can help that individual to connect the dots, so we felt internally that we would have some discussions,” said Ms. Thomas-Smith. The City should work with “unified information,” she said. “We knew that we had to collaborate differently.”
The solution: “So far we’ve decided that we would continue on with the Human Services task force,” said Ms. Thomas-Smith. The City will be “comprehensive in our approach… with smaller task forces” addressing particular issues, such as hoarding, she said.
Mr. Meunzer announced the transfer of half of one position from Human Services to Community Development in the form of a compliance officer to ensure each program meets with HUD or other government requirements. The Community Development Division will also take over staffing the Mental Health Board. Community Development “staffs 12 or 13 boards and commissions,” he said. “We staff a lot. We know how to do it.”