Chicago Mayor Richard Daley’s recent 75-year deal handing the city’s parking meters to a private company for a mere $1.15 Billion suggets there is no lack of imagination at City Hall when it comes to schemes to sell out the public interest to lowball bidders.
Nonetheless, recent reports that the Mayor was, but is no longer considering privatizing Chicago’s snow removal services have inspired some brainstorming in advance of the snow storming. Here then are five suggestions for how to package the deal:
1) A Real Taste Of Chicago: In what marketing people call a “value-add”, Chicago could turn snowdrifts into cold cash with a little creative branding. Snow, being nothing more than lumpy water, could be sold off under an exclusive contract to an enterprising soft drink bottler. After melting (and some filtration to remove the larger objects) the slushy scourge of winter could be on store shelves by January, marketed as a refreshing beverage. Bonus: high levels of dissolved road salt in the product could make a unique and flavorful sports drink in the summer months. Brand name? Street Juice. Oooh, that’s “edgy”.
2) Kitchen Chair Bonds: It’s a long-standing Chicago tradition during winter to “reserve” a street parking space by illegally placing home furnishings onto a freshly shoveled stretch of street. By February, Chicago side streets look as if the city lost a war to an occupying dinette army. Eventually, Streets and Sanitation crews collect the offending chairs by the thousands, only to send them to landfills. But why waste these chairs? Have we not learned from the financial news of the year that vast riches lie within items of dubious value? What’s good for sketchy mortgages is good for these chairs: have the city raise funds for snow removal by issuing Kitchen Chair Bonds, debt backed by the value of thousands of seats collected by the city every February. Because people gotta sit, and Wall Street will buy anything (as long as Iceland will buy it from them.)
3) Request Proposals From Mr. Plow and Plow King: In nearby Springfield, a pair of snow removal contractors have been driving down costs by engaging in healthy free-market competition. Chicago should entertain their proposals: because what could possibly go wrong?
4) Outsource Snow Command to Mumbai: MBAs (and the Mayor) know well the pleasures and profits of globalization. Why endure bothersome union wages and pricey humane working conditions when the finest call centers in Mumbai, India stand ready to relieve the pressure on the bottom line? City Of Chicago Snow Command is today staffed with dozens of full-time professionals directing snow removal efforts. Unacceptable. Why not pink-slip the lot of them, rewire the phones, data and video lines to the Indian subcontinent and put the task in the hands of an enterprising Mumbai service provider for pennies on the dollar? Sure, workers would need some training – educational videos would need to be produced, including titles such as “What Is Snow?” and “Archer, Lincoln and Clyborn Streets: The Diagonal Dilemma”, and “So Your Name Is Jugdesh: Should You Pick Jerry Or Jimmy As Your Phone Name?” but these issues haven’t gotten in the way of the banking industry, so they shouldn’t here.
5) Select A Marginally Qualified Chicago Contractor With Long-Standing Ties To The Mayor: There’s still time!.