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Chicago Mayor proposes merging tech and fleet departments to save $1 million

Mayor Lightfoot says the move will save money and drive efficiencies. Chicago’s former CDO called it a “terrible decision".


Chicago’s Mayor, Lori E Lightfoot, is proposing to merge the City’s Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT) and Fleet and Facility Management (2FM) in a move estimated to save $1million.


She said the merger could be central to reimagining the City’s technology and innovation operations by better integrating technology infrastructure into its overall asset management model, led by 2FM.


If approved, the merger, which is subject to City Council approval, will take effect in 2020. All occupied positions would be retained or transitioned in the new structure.


On October 23, Mayor Lightfoot will present the measure as part of the City’s 2020 budget during an annual address. She will outline the actions planned to make up an $838 million budget deficit.


“With significant financial challenges in 2020 and beyond, we remain committed to ensuring that the City operates in the most efficient manner possible, and that the maximum amount of resources are allocated equitably to serve all communities,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “With these reforms, we will ensure a more efficient, 21st century data and technology model to put Chicago at the forefront for driving excellence and innovation across all operations, and for the residents we serve.”


Chicago is facing an annual budget deficit of $838 million.


Following the merger, the City’s technology personnel will preserve all critical data science, information systems and data security functions currently offered by DoIT, including the Open Data portal and the 311 service.


Alderman Gilbert Villegas, chairman of the Committee on Economic, Capital and Technology Development, said: “By working together with the Mayor’s Office, these reforms will retain superior technology talent and personnel so that we can continue to work toward our shared mission of efficiently and equitably serving all of Chicago’s communities.”




However, Chicago’s former chief data officer (CDO), Tom Schenk Jr, said on Twitter he thought the merger was a “terrible” decision.



He wrote: “The mission of those two agencies do not overlap and [they] do not have [a] common workforce. Thus, the idea it saves money is wrong. Treating IT as a piece of physical infrastructure is incredibly dated and exactly the opposite of what technology organisations view [as] their mission.”


In addition, the chief data officer and chief information officer will be relocated to the Mayor’s Office to drive the city-wide use of data and analytics.


"Treating IT as a piece of physical infrastructure is incredibly dated."


Chicago says centralising these dedicated positions will allow the administration to build new data initiatives that support more efficient operations, including spearheading a renewed open data strategy and harnessing large data sources to drive transformation throughout programmes and operations.


Schenk Jr said, though, that such a move would “deter those roles from being effective. You must keep leadership close to those implementing technology. To think IT can be orchestrated apart from the doing of IT is misguided.”


“I’m truly disappointed to see the administration take such a poor step,” he wrote.


Hard choices


Earlier this year, the City of Chicago administration announced over $5.9 million in savings derived from energy and operational savings at 2FM; the termination of short-term borrowing, which is expected to save $22 million in the 2020 financial year; and reforms to the workers’ compensation programme aimed at driving down claim costs.


In August, Mayor Lightfoot warned of “hard choices” ahead when it comes to budget decisions. She also suggested that Chicago will need help from the state.


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