During his ten-year reign as president of the CTA, Frank Kruesi made so many blunders it's hard to know where to begin.
He wasted time, money, and effort on projects that were either redundant or needlessly extravagant (think Pink Line, Brown Line reconstruction, and of course the idiotic underground station at Block 37). At the same time, he overlooked basic repairs and maintenance, with the result that service is slower and less dependable than it's been in years.
But perhaps his greatest failing came in his role as chief public representative of the agency he headed. The man was consistently arrogant, rude, and contemptuous of anyone he deemed beneath himself -- that by and large being everyone he ever met. Over the years I don't know how many people -- aldermen, congressmen, CTA staffers, ordinary riders -- told me how much they despised him for his treatment of them -- and of the public. One of the most memorable meetings I've ever witnessed occurred three years ago at Clemente High School, where dozens of riders turned out to protest yet another one of Kruesi's doomsday budgets. Kruesi infuriated the long-suffering crowd, spending much of the evening rolling his eyes or whispering to CTA board chair Carole Brown (who apparently couldn't stand the guy either).
The group he alienated as much as any were the people he needed the most: state legislators he was counting on to send more transportation dollars to keep the trains and buses running. When Daley finally bowed to reality and replaced Kruesi with Ron Huberman last spring, most legislators I know rejoiced that they'd no longer have to deal with him.
So having ousted Kruesi from the public payroll for his divisiveness and ineffectiveness, what has Mayor Daley decided to do with his longtime friend? Put him back on the payroll as the city's chief federal lobbyist in Washington.
Let's get this straight: Daley's hiring an insufferably arrogant and ineffective negotiator for a $143,000-a-year position that requires tact, diplomacy, and the ability to schmooze congressmen and federal regulators?
"His job is to help make sure our relationship with the federal government is as productive as it can be toward helping to improve the quality of life for all Chicagoans," Daley said in a press statement, released just after the mayor took off for Italy on yet another one of his international junkets.
Why did the mayor appoint a man so eminently ill-suited to this important post? As near as I can tell, there are two reasons. (1) He wanted to take care of a loyal factotum of long standing (Kruesi's been working for Daley in one capacity or another since the 70s). (2) Because he can.