- Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot will introduce a controversial plan to merge the city's Department of Information Technology (DoIT) with the Department of Fleet and Facility Management (2FM) in part to better integrate technology infrastructure into asset management.
- The positions of the chief data officer and chief information officer will be relocated to the mayor's office, while the rest of DoIT staff will move to 2FM, according to a city press release. The move is expected to save approximately $1 million in the short term, with more savings over time.
- Critics have charged that the move could sideline DoIT staff. In a Twitter thread, former Chicago CDO Tom Schenk Jr. said, "the mission of those two agencies do not overlap and do not have common workforce," adding "the idea it saves money is wrong."
Lightfoot will present the merger plan to city council in her annual budget address on Oct. 23; if the council approves it, the merger would take effect in 2020.
The move is being pitched as a way to chip away at the city's $838 million budget shortfall while also improving efficiency and transparency. Moving the top two data and information positions to the mayor's office, the city added, will also help bring open data initiatives across city departments.
In a statement, 2FM Commissioner David Reynolds said his office is "committed to implementing a highly efficient shared service model that will allow all City departments to perform neighborhood services promptly and equitably." Bringing in DoIT staff will add "the capacity and the data expertise to continue providing top notch service for all Chicagoans," he added.
However, some see the merger as a potential step backwards for a city that has been regarded as a leader on open data and IT. Derek Eder, president of the civic technology project Chi Hack Night, said in an interview that it felt like a "step backward at a time when cities and states need to make information technology a higher priority."
The city did not respond to request for comment on the concerns.
Cities including Atlanta and Baltimore, have become the targets of increasingly aggressive cyberattacks, and there's concern that putting IT staff in the asset management office could split their attention. "There's no such job as being good at internet, technology and managing fleets," Eder said.