Mayor Rahm Emanuel had a sarcastic field day Wednesday ridiculing the idea of a mass transit super-agency that would abolish the RTA and oversee the CTA, Metra and Pace.
“NO—and in capital letters. Let me just be really clear. This is what happens when you lock up a lot of propeller-heads in a room for a short period of time,” the mayor said.
“First, they say, `We have an unaccountable, nameless, faceless bureaucracy. Hold on. We’d like to like replace it with the new version of an unaccountable, nameless, faceless bureaucracy.’ I’ve had my views on the importance of being a propeller-head. I think I’ve given you my views on that. It is a non-starter with us.”
The super-agency idea was recommended by the 15-member task force appointed by Gov. Pat Quinn last summer after the outcry over a huge severance package Metra Board members gave their ex-CEO as well as influence-peddling allegations at Metra — some involving Madigan.
Quinn gave the task force the broader mission of cleaning up the ethics of Metra, CTA, Pace and their financial overseer — the Regional Transportation Authority — and reorganizing the area’s transit agencies. He asked former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald to chair it.
Toward that end, the task force recommended replacing the 47 members of all four transit agencies with one superboard — possibly of 15 people — overseeing a supertransit agency that would plan regionally. Metra, the CTA and Pace would operate under the larger agency.
The superboard would be appointed by the governor, the mayor of Chicago, the Cook County Board president, and collar county chief executives. Those officials would make their selections from a slate of candidates proposed by an “independent group” — a group Fitzgerald said could be picked by those authorities. Candidates would be vetted by the inspector general.
Even before Emanuel’s put-down, the CTA and the mayor’s office had already dumped on the superagency model as lacking accountability, and RTA Chairman John Gates Jr. had described the idea as virtually dead on arrival.
One task force co-chair, George Ranney of Metropolis Strategies, said “several” lawmakers have expressed interest in working on a bill tied to the report but declined to name them.
“Nothing’s DOA,” Ranney said. “There’s going to be political support; it won’t happen overnight.”