CHICAGO — Chicago’s 50 aldermen have a multimillion-dollar piggy bank.
It’s referred to as a “menu” because they use the money to pick and choose improvements for their wards. CBS 2 and the Better Government Association joined forces to see how the money is being spent.
2 Investigator Pam Zekman and the BGA look inside the “Aldermanic Piggy Banks.”
Community activist Raul Montes wants 22nd Ward Ald. Ricardo Munoz to fund blue-light police cameras for dangerous corners.
Why isn’t he doing it?
“That’s a mystery,” Montes said.
Each Chicago alderman gets $1.3 million a year to spend on ward improvements. Records obtained by CBS 2 and the BGA found that a majority of them spend most of the money on improvements such as street lights, speed humps, road resurfacing and blue-light cameras.
But in the last three years, Munoz has only spent about $41,000 — leaving more than $3.85 million just sitting untouched in his fund. Munoz said he has an idea about what the money will be put toward: street improvements around a proposed park in his ward.
“We decided to try and save that money to see if it could be used as a negotiating tactic and tool towards building a new park at 31st and Kedzie,” he said.
The Chicago Park district would have to approve and pay for the $18 million dollar project.
Given that it’s not a done deal, Zekman asked Munoz why he wouldn’t spend some of the money on blue-light cameras in problem areas.
“If it were up to some neighbors, they would want to have a camera on every corner — that’s just not doable,” Munoz said.
But Montes has collected more than 1,000 signatures from residents and business owners like hardware store owner Jose Hernandez.
“It’s a shame that people who have the ability and the money to do things — they don’t do it,” he said.
Andy Shaw, director of the BGA, sides with the frustrated constituents.
“If there’s a big project out there, have the mayor and the city take care of the big project,” Shaw said. “The menu is for the little things that aldermen have to do for their constituents.”
Every year, 50th Ward Ald. Bernard Stone spends all of his menu money, mostly on streetlights to help deter crime. But he admits to one fact of political life.
“You take care of the people who take care of you — you know, the people who voted for you,” he said. “That’s not Chicago politics, that’s Politics 101.”