RTA board members squabble, miss funding deadline
By Stefano Esposito Staff Reporter September 17, 2013 5:01PM
John S. Gates Jr.
Updated: October 19, 2013 7:13PM
Already facing the possibility of a shakeup, the Regional Transportation Authority — the agency that oversees CTA, Metra and Pace — handed its detractors more ammunition Tuesday, after squabbling among board members meant the RTA missed a key funding deadline.
By law, the RTA board was supposed to agree by Sept. 15 on estimates for divvying up funds among the three transit agencies for the 2014-16 budget years.
On Tuesday — for the second time in as many months — the board failed to get the super majority it needs to move forward with the budget process.
The split was along regional lines, with all four city-appointed representatives voting against the proposal, and the majority of suburban board members supporting it.
“We have a fiduciary duty to do this — it’s three days late,” said RTA Chairman John Gates Jr. “We don’t have any way to avoid that.”
But board member Anthony Anderson, a city appointee, questioned why the board was voting on something that doesn’t appear to have the support of the CTA.
Gates said only minor details remained to be ironed out, and he said that shouldn’t prevent the board voting to keep the budget process moving forward.
But Sarah Pang, another city appointee, said she’s had no time to look at the details of the proposal.
“The process is not working,” Pang said at one point.
The RTA’s lawyer, Nadine Lacombe, criticized what has been the board’s “unfortunate and disconcerting habit” in recent years in failing to meet the Sept. 15 deadline.
“It puts taxpayers and service boards at risk,” Lacombe said. “There’s a schedule we’re expected to follow. There is a domino effect that follows from not meeting the statutory deadline. It’s dangerous. It affects funding, it affects operations and it affects service.”
The board also failed to reach agreement last month on the funding levels.
A task force appointed by Gov. Pat Quinn is considering restructuring the RTA board and the transit agencies it oversees, following the controversial departure of Metra chief Alex Clifford June 21.