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Chicago Mayor Lightfoot Proposes Controversial IT Merger

Mayor Lori Lightfoot wants to merge the departments of Innovation and Technology, and Fleet and Facility Management in 2020 to save the city $1 million and help drive down an $838 million budget shortfall.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has announced a plan to merge the city’s Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT) with the Department of Fleet and Facility Management (2FM), which would save $1 million in an effort to cut an $838 million budget shortfall.

A spokesperson with the mayor’s office told Government Technology that the proposal, which requires approval from the Chicago City Council, will be presented to lawmakers during the budget process. Lightfoot is scheduled to deliver her 2020 budget address to the council at its Oct. 23 meeting.

If approved, the merger would take effect in 2020. All personnel will be kept on in their current role or in a new position within 2FM, according to a release from the mayor’s office. The city’s chief information officer and chief data officer, both of which are unappointed at the moment, will be moved to the mayor’s office.

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. — Mayor Lori Lightfoot (@chicagosmayor) October 9, 2019
“The merger includes relocating the Chief Data Officer and Chief Information Officer to the Mayor’s Office in an effort to ensure data-driven decision-making aligns with the administration's goals of ensuring more efficient operations that will more equitably serve all of Chicago's communities,” Chicago spokeswoman Hail Levandoski said in an email to Government Technology.

The proposal drew some criticism on Twitter from current and former CIOs and CDOs across the country. One of the most vocal opponents was former Chicago CDO Tom Schenk Jr., who left the position in 2018 to join the consultancy KPMG where he is now the director of analytics.

Today, City of Chicago has made a terrible decision to merge IT operations with fleet and facility (who manages properties and city vehicles). That's right, someone is going to have to manage cars, buildings and IT in one job. — Tom Schenk Jr. (@tomschenkjr) October 9, 2019
During his tenure with Chicago, Schenk worked closely with CIO and Commissioner Danielle DuMerer, who left civil service in July to lead IT operations at the nearby Shedd Aquarium.

Critics have argued the shift would be a step backward for Chicago IT, as leadership would reside in the mayor’s office while support staff for the Open Data portal, 311 and other services would be relegated to 2FM.

The relocation of DoIT’s critical data, Web and cybersecurity services aligns with 2FM’s current citywide service model, the release states. The merger will also support Lightfoot’s goal of ensuring transparency and efficiency within Chicago’s government.

“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,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “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.”

Kate LeFurgy, a spokeswoman for the Office of the City Clerk, said the typical procedure for a proposal from the mayor’s office follows a three-step process. The mayor chooses when to introduce a measure to the council, it is then referred to a committee for review and then discussed at a later meeting. 

Patrick Groves was a staff writer for Government Technology from 2019 to 2020.
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