Chicago Seeks Merger of City Departments

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Chicago’s Mayor is proposing a controversial merger of city departments. According to a statement released by Mayor Lightfoot, the city plans to merge the Chicago Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT) and Fleet and Facility Management (2FM). The Mayor says that merging the department will save $1 million.

In addition to immediate cost savings, the Mayor expects that the city will realize additional efficiencies over time.

2FM would lead the combined department. The city says that 2FM has an established track record of identifying efficiencies and reforms including cost savings through effective asset management. 2FM was able to realize $5.9 million in savings derived from internal operational reforms and improved energy use.

According to Mayor Lightfoot, bringing the two departments together would support the city’s plan to reimagine its technology operations and overall asset management model. All occupied positions would be retained and transitioned to a new joint structure. The City Council still has to approve the merger which would take place in 2020.

Chicago is facing an $838 million budget shortfall in its next budget round, which is driving new round of austerity maneuvers from the Mayor. However, the proposed merger has drawn criticism from former technology officials in Chicago and elsewhere. Combining two departments, each with significant mandates and very likely significantly less resources could put a lot of pressure on city staff as they simultaneously adapt to doing more with less and in a new organizational structure. Some members of the City Council have voiced support for the merger, but the move is likely to be hotly debated ahead of the next meeting.

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, 311 and other tools and services designed to provide transparency and access for all residents and businesses.

Alongside the merger, two chief technology positions will be relocated to the Mayor’s office. The Chief Data Officer and the Chief Information Officer will develop a roadmap to improve data-driven governing throughout the city and improve the use of technology in city services and infrastructure. Mayor Lightfoot says that by bringing these positions into her office, it will be easier to build new data initiatives including a renewed open data strategy.