Emanuel defends aldermen getting $1.3 million each for ward projects

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Friday made it clear he has no intention of doing away with a program that allows each of the city’s 50 aldermen to decide how to spend their own $1.3 million pots of money on construction projects.

His defense of the so-called menu money came the day after Inspector General Joseph Ferguson recommended axing the program and instead letting the city Department of Transportation make those decisions.

Emanuel said the program allows residents, through their elected representatives, to have direct input on how the money is spent.

“I actually think you want the neighborhood input and you want the aldermanic input,” Emanuel said after announcing an $18.2 million rehab of the CTA’s Quincy Loop station. “And I think that’s a good way to go, and I don’t think those ideas should be generated out of downtown. I think they actually should come from the residents that make up our many, many different neighborhoods.”

Emanuel, a former U.S. representative, contended that Congress “has been totally, 100 percent dysfunctional” since reformers ended earmarks, which let lawmakers individually greenlight pet projects.

Left unsaid by the mayor was the political battle he’d have on his hands if he tried to ax the menu program, which was launched under then-Mayor Richard M. Daley about 20 years ago, not long after a near-majority of aldermen staged a council floor revolt demanding more money for local street repairs.

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