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By holding a City Hall press conference to announce that his chef of staff, Ron Huberman, will be replacing Frank Kruesi as head of the CTA, Mayor Daley is once again letting the world know how little he regards the men and women he appoints to boards and commissions.
Technically, the mayor doesn't have the authority to appoint the CTA's president, who acts as the agency's chief executive officer, overseeing day-to-day operations. That power belongs to the CTA's seven board members, four of whom are appointed by the mayor, three by the governor.
But in the world of Chicago politics board members generally serve as rubber stamps. As it's been explained to me many times by my people in the know, the mayor is careful not to make the mistake of appointing anyone with an independent mind. The result is that billion-dollar projects and sweeping policy decision in the schools, parks, and CTA are typically ushered in without any discussion or debate on the part of the people ostensibly in charge.
Granted, CTA board members have shown a little more conscientiousness than their counterparts at the Park District or Board of Education. They've gone along with some of the mayor's daffier transportation schemes, like selling Wilson Yard for cheap or building an underground station at Block 37 for an airport express service that will probably never get used. But at least they've shown some discomfort over the hardships Kruesi's mismanagement has caused the CTA's commuters. In contrast, school and Park District board members cheerfully look the other way while Daley loots property tax dollars from their coffers to feed his TIFs.
A 35-year-old former policeman, Huberman, whose only experience in transportation is a school-bus driving job he held as a college student, is being asked to run a chronically bankrupt multibillion dollar agency whose major transit lines are falling apart.
If the CTA board members had any guts they'd politely tell the mayor that they're taking his recommendation under advisement while going about the business of searching for a qualified, innovative, and creative candidate to lead the CTA out of this mess.
But of course they don't have a lot of guts. If they did they wouldn't have been given their jobs in the first place.