Budget director getting shower installed in City Hall office
Executive paying for all the work, officials say
By Gary Washburn | Tribune reporter
February 21, 2008
City workers who dig ditches, pave streets and fight fires sometimes get dirty during a day's work. City Budget Director Bennett Johnson III, by contrast, doesn't usually break a sweat performing his $155,600-per-year job.
But despite his white-collar toils, Johnson is having a shower installed in his City Hall office.
Daley administration officials acknowledged the plumbing job Wednesday but said the budget chief is covering the estimated $5,400 cost with his own money.
Department of General Services tradesmen are doing the work. They recently punched a hole in the floor to make a pipe connection in the office below, which belongs to Mayor Richard Daley's chief of staff, Lori Healey, a worker familiar with the upgrade said.
It's a clean project, insisted Daley press secretary Jacquelyn Heard.
"When I talked to Lori, she said the only way she was willing to sign off on it was if he was willing to pay for it, and he did," Heard said. "That's what sealed the deal."
Heard said Johnson wants the shower because he rides his bicycle to work when weather permits.
"As I understand it, Bennett is a big cycling enthusiast," she said.
Johnson was unavailable for comment.
Johnson was the architect of Daley's 2008 budget, which calls for nearly $280 million in tax, fee and fine increases.
"I think allocating public resources to install a shower in a city office would be totally inappropriate, especially given the budget challenges that this City Council has had to struggle with," said Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), who was among those who voted against the spending plan. "However, if Mr. Johnson is willing to pay that tab out of his own pocket ... I don't have a problem with that."
Ald. Manuel Flores (1st), who also voted no on the budget, sounded a cautionary note. "I think we have to be careful," he said. "What is the message we are sending at a time we are asking people to step up to the plate to help finance government?"
Other council members said they would have no objections to a stall in Johnson's office even if the city were footing the bill.
"Who cares? What's wrong with that?" asked Ald. Bernard Stone (50th). "These guys who work 14, 15 hours a day -- that doesn't bother me."
Johnson's will not be the first shower in City Hall. The chief of staff's office got one in the 1970s, and the mayor's office has had one "forever," Heard said. The office of the Streets and Sanitation commissioner, who sometimes works round the clock during snowstorms and other emergencies, also has a shower.
A shower in Johnson's office could save time, eliminating the need for the budget director to duck out to a health club for a quick clean-up before an evening meeting, said Ald. Brian Doherty (41st).
"You don't want a smelly budget director," Doherty declared.