Here’s an easy way for CTA president to win over taxpayers: Show up when $26 million is at stake

City Council members griped once again this week about the absence of CTA chief Dorval Carter Jr. at a key committee meeting.

SHARE Here’s an easy way for CTA president to win over taxpayers: Show up when $26 million is at stake
A person wears a face mask on a Blue Line train.

A person wears a face mask on a Blue Line train.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Last week, we asked a spokesperson for the Chicago Transit Authority why the agency’s president or a representative did not attend a City Council Budget Committee meeting where the CTA was set to get approval for a $26.1 million windfall from the real estate transfer tax.

The spokesperson told us such meetings are pretty routine and the agency was not asked to be there.

We thought that was a fair answer, though some council members were angry that CTA President Dorval Carter Jr. didn’t show up. The spokesperson wouldn’t say whether or not Carter would attend such routine meetings in the future.

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On Tuesday, the answer was clear.

At a meeting where the committee OK’d the pass-through of funds, CTA Chief Financial Officer Jeremy Fine was present to make the case for the money to be spent to shore up pensions. Once again, Carter himself wasn’t there. And committee members took another chance to slam him for the absence.

Ald. George Cardenas (12th), Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s deputy floor leader, said the call he got from CTA Board Chair Lester Barclay after last week’s gripe session wasn’t a replacement for Carter’s testimony.

“I acknowledge the fact that money has to go to the CTA based on statutory requirements. But it’s by no means a thumbs-up on CTA and their management. It’s lacking. There’s a tension. This is not gonna go away,” Cardenas said.

Carter should have learned from what happened last week. Sending a top subordinate is a step in the right direction, but not enough.

The head of a major city agency owes it to council members, and taxpayers, to be in the room when $26 million is at stake. That’s the case, we think, even when that $26 million must, by law, be appropriated to the agency.

Taxpayers especially deserve extra effort from Carter, given his recent hefty pay raise from $262,731 to $350,000.

A CTA spokesperson described last week’s events as an aberration when it comes to communication with the city.

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That’s not the message Council members, and Chicago, are getting.

“I don’t think we’ve ever heard from him,” Black Caucus Chairman Jason Ervin (28th) said Tuesday. “If the gentleman feels it’s beneath him to come talk with us, then that’s the message that’s being conveyed.”

If Carter disagrees, he’s got to show up next time.

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