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October 17, 2011


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I like the philosophy, who doesn't (squeezing the most out of your money; investing where it counts)?, but this is the sort of thing that sounds great without necessarily meaning anything different than the typical budget-cutting spiel: I'm going to trim the fat (even though, in truth, many state and local departments have already cut to the bone). In fact this goes one better: I'm going to trim the fat and, despite everything that everyone is saying about our economy, we'll actually be able to add or improve services!

Friedman doesn't actually give any substantial detail about what Emanuel has cut. He talks about cutting administrative budgets and moving police from desk jobs to the street. Sorry to say it, as it's much more exciting to talk about people "doing" things, but we do need administrators. Processing cases, getting evidence sorted and analyzed, coordinating among people and departments... all desk jobs. Administrative budgets include things like information technology and planning that can be used to achieve the original goal--economy and optimal use of resources.

I'm not saying there's no fat in Emanuel's budget--any larger city, especially one with a political history like Chicago's, is probably paying a number of people too much money to do very little. But the difficulty is ascertaining the difference between those people and the ones who are essential to keeping the city running. That is of course the holy grail for any government executive making budget cuts, but I don't know that anyone's figured it out yet, Emanuel included.

I would love for it to be true, but without more detail, I'm (obviously) highly skeptical.

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