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Two Years Later, Aldermen Finally Pick Independent Budget Analyst

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A nearly two-year deadlock over who would run the Chicago City Council's independent budget office has come to an end, as aldermen have reached a consensus choice to become their first-ever financial analyst.

Ben Winick, who was a top aide in former Gov. Pat Quinn's budget office, was tapped Wednesday to run the City Council Office of Financial Analysis.

For years, aldermen have complained the only budget information they get comes from the mayor's office, so they decided to create their own office to examine the city's finances. However, for at least a year-and-a-half, they could not agree on who they should hire to run the office.

Ald. Carrie Austin (34th), who chairs the City Council Budget Committee, had wanted to bring in former Ald. Helen Shiller (47th), but Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th), who spearheaded the push for an independent budget office, balked at Austin's choice, and Shiller withdrew from consideration.

Pawar had argued Shiller was not independent or qualified enough for the job.

Now Austin and Pawar have agreed to bring in Winick, a respected financial expert.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel approved of the council's choice.

"One of the things that, for years, independent groups and good government or political analysts had called for was to see an independent office to help the aldermen, as it relates to making of the budget," Emanuel said. "This has been something that's been discussed for years."


Winick takes his new job at a time when the city is facing a $1 billion budget deficit, and a $30 billion combined shortfall for pension funds covering police officers, firefighters, teachers, and other public employees in Chicago.

"We have tough decisions ahead of us. Decisions are going to require us to look at all different types of aspects; how to do what we do, and do it better, and be smarter with the public's resources, and then deliver better services," Emanuel said. "Therefore, we have an office. They said they were short of information, now they have a person with a fiscal and financial background to assist them in answering questions."

Winick will start this summer, and receive an annual salary of $107,000. In addition to a stint as chief of staff and acting director of the Governor's Office of Management and Budget under Quinn, Winick has served as vice president of policy at Innovation Illinois, a non-partisan progressive think tank.

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