Reporting Bob Roberts
CHICAGO (CBS) – Although the newest appointee to the CTA’s governing board suddenly backed out in the past week, the CTA’s President says any upcoming agency shake up should leave his agency out.
CTA President Forrest Claypool said the difference is in the way the boards are selected.
Metra, Pace and Regional Transportation Authority board members are chosen by officials from each of the six counties they serve. In fact, Pace board members are, or once were, village presidents or mayors.
Claypool said that is part of the problem.
“If everyone is in charge, no one is in charge,” he said, calling the selection process “byzantine.”
Four of the seven CTA board members are chosen by the mayor of the city of Chicago, and the rest by the governor. Claypool said that makes the CTA’s board both different and accountable.
“When we screw things up here, you guys (the media) not only beat me up, you run and beat the mayor up,” he said. “You put microphones in the mayor’s face and embarrass him and the voters can go to the polls if they don’t like what’s going on here and they can throw him out.”
While the voters have never thrown out of Chicago mayor strictly because of problems at the CTA, the strike by CTA workers during the 1979 holiday season didn’t help Jane Byrne’s re-election bid in 1983, when she lost to the late Harold Washington.
So, Claypool reasons, if legislators are contemplating changes to the structure of Chicago-area mass transit, they should leave the CTA out.
“If changes are being looked at, don’t try to lump us in with Metra and the RTA and everybody else because we have an accountability structure directly to the voters,” he said.
The scrutiny has been intense on the RTA and the three so-called “service boards” since the June 21 decision by Metra’s board to give CEO Alex Clifford a severance deal worth up to $718,000 in exchange for his resignation eight months early. Five Metra board members have quit or been forced out since then, leaving it with a bare quorum of six members and unable to name a permanent chairman or even to restore the discount for purchasing 10-ride tickets, as promised by former Metra Chairman Brad O’Halloran before he stepped aside.
Two RTA board members have also resigned, and the CTA’s newest board member, Thornton Twp. Supervisor Frank Zuccarelli, elected to keep his six-figure supervisor’s salary and forego the CTA job, which pays $25,000 a year.
Members of Chicago-area transit boards are forbidden by law from drawing a second government salary in most cases. Working at the township level has been exempted until now, Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo), a frequent critic of Chicago-area mass transit, introduced a bill Wednesday that would close the loophole.