CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Rahm Emanuel has nominated former Chicago alderman and government reformer Martin Oberman Chicago’s representative on the embattled Metra board.
WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports Oberman fought machine politics in his days at City Hall, and frequently clashed with former Mayors Richard J. Daley, Michael Bilandic, and Jane Byrne. He was also an ally of former Mayor Harold Washington before Oberman resigned in 1987.
Now, Oberman is confident he can help clean up the mess at Metra.
“I think with all the light being shone on Metra, and the problems over there, I’m optimistic that people will want to work to make sure that place runs free of political interference, and try to cut down on waste, and make it run efficiently,” Oberman said. “It’s going to be a challenging assignment. I’m looking forward to it.”
The Metra board lost five members after former CEO Alex Clifford was forced out earlier this year, and given a severance deal worth up to $871,000 after sending out a memo alleging he was pressured by then-board member Larry Huggins in connection to contracts for African Americans. Clifford has alleged other incidents of being pressured to make patronage hires or to give pay raises to employees with clout.
Huggins has since stepped down, and Oberman would take his seat on the board, if his nomination is approved by the City Council.
As a Chicagoan who bikes to work, Oberman admitted he rarely rides Metra trains, but said “we all have a stake in an effective mass transit system,” and said he would ride more often if his appointment is confirmed.
He said, board members of a large corporation with a budget in the hundreds of millions of dollars, he and the rest of the Metra board must hold the agency accountable for its spending, and insist on transparency.