a worthwhile chat with Alderman Fioretti
04/09/2012 11:17 AM
"The budget's tight," said 2nd Ward Alderman Bob Fioretti in his service office at 1319 S. State last week, a water bottle by his side due to the persistent dryness in his throat from his tonsil cancer treatment. He felt bad that he hasn't been able to upgrade the street lights in Dearborn Park 1 the way he has in Dearborn Park 2, he said between sips. But the older section on the north side of Roosevelt needs massive rewiring in order to enjoy the same new lights--and it's way expensive, like $60-80,000 per block, he lamented.
And then there's the rest of the 2nd Ward he has to worry about.
Some parts of the West Side, he says, haven't had their infrastructure upgraded since 1968, the year of the riots and the fires.
I felt kind of like a kid whose parents have to have a heart-to-heart with. A times-are-tough kind of talk. The kind that starts out by explaining it's time to cut back because we're in a recession. A reduction in the-ice-skating lessons-the-ballet-class-the-premium-cable-and-the-really-good-athletic-shoes-you're-used-to kind-of-talk.
And then he went down a list. Actually, he had sheets from the City powers-that-be that spelled out all the things he could spend his menu money on--a measly 1.2 million dollars per year. He had sheets with pictures and prices--like a contracting business that's trying to sell the customer on upgrades, a customer who really needs it--but who's really short of cash. "It's almost like they're discouraging improvements," he said. "Because a lot of the improvements start to increase in price the more you do. I've got alleys, garbage cans, lightbulbs, things that haven't been fixed in 100 years; and I'd like to do the branding program."
He went through, sheet by sheet until I couldn't take it anymore. A speed bump will cost an alderman $1400. In rubber. A concrete "apron" runs $10,000. A block of sidewalk (on one side) costs $65,500; add curbs and gutters and you add $68,000.
It's $65,000 if an alderman wants to install diagonal parking. And $25,000 for a cul-de-sac. For a turn-around it runs $11,000. A cool $20,000 for an LED traffic light. And $12,000 for a countdown on a traffic light.
You want a left-turn arrow signal? It costs the aldermen $70,000. And $164,000 for ornamental lighting per block. Although pole painting only runs $300. On the other hand, every time a pole has to be replaced a different style ends up getting installed and that drives up the cost of repair, too, explained Fioretti. There are 37 different styles, he said.
If the alderman wants to paint everything in an intersection, the alderman has to cough up $3500. For a light bulb upgrade, it's $400, as is a floodlight. Viaduct lighting is $1500 per fixture. And a controversial police camera? A cool $22,500.
You want a permeable green alley, the kind that absorbs water and cuts down on waste and flooding and that sort of thing? Per alley they run $200,000. And in the 2nd ward there are 247 alleys to be dealt with. Not to mention 513 garbage pick-ups. (Why can't we have the grid system? wondered the 2nd Ward alderman.)
"If you put in five green alleys, you're almost out of money," said Fioretti. "Do the math."
I did. And he's right.