Quinn appoints Patrick Fitzgerald to transit-reform panel
BY ROSALIND ROSSI Transportation Reporter August 15, 2013 10:20AM
Former U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald~Sun-Times
Updated: September 17, 2013 8:16AM
Gov. Pat Quinn on Thursday issued an executive order creating a task force charged with reforming the region’s mass transit systems that includes former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.
“It’s clear that the mass transit system in northeastern Illinois is not working for taxpayers,’’ Quinn said in a news release. “This task force is a step forward to make our transit system worthy of the public’s trust.’’
Fitzgerald, whose work led to the convictions of two Illinois governors, will join a group of 15 transit, finance and good government leaders asked to revamp the oversight of public transit in northeastern Illinois and issue a final report by Jan. 31, 2014. However, the group also is being asked to provide initial recommendations before the fall veto session.
The task force will be co-chaired by Ann Schneider, secretary of the Illinois Department of Transportation, and George Ranney, president of Metropolis Strategies. Ranney last year lobbied for an end to the Regional Transportation Authority, saying it should be merged with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.
The formation of the task force is the latest fallout from the June 21 resignation of Metra CEO Alex Clifford. Clifford’s 26-month, up to $718,000 separation deal, reached with only eight months left on his contract, unleashed a landslide of scrutiny on the Metra board and transit boards throughout the region.
Quinn’s news release noted that his executive order comes “in the wake of recurring scandals at Metra and ongoing accountability problems over the last decade.’’
Two inspectors general are now investigating Clifford’s allegations that he was forced out because he refused to bend to patronage and contract demands. Five Metra board members have since resigned; two Regional Transportation Authority board members have bowed out and a Chicago Transit Authority board member resigned — as well as his replacement.
Meanwhile, calls have been increasing to reconfigure the way the system’s transit boards are organized. Quinn gubernatorial opponent Bill Daley has recommended an RTA shakeup, while RTA Board Chairman John Gates Jr. has asked for increased powers.
CTA President Forrest Claypool on Wednesday defended the CTA, saying it should be immune from a shakeup because critics can vote out Mayor Rahm Emanuel — who names four of seven CTA board members — if they disagree with CTA actions.
Meanwhile, the Daley campaign Thursday tore into Quinn for appointing a task force.
“Here’s the difference between the two candidates,’’ said Daley spokesman Pete Giangreco. “Bill Daley has called for getting rid of a $33 million transit agency [the RTA] that doesn’t provide [commuters] a single ride while Pat Quinn does nothing but appoint a committee. It’s the difference between leadership and governance by press release.’’
The RTA oversees the finances of Metra, the CTA and Pace, the suburban bus agency.
According to the governor’s office, Schneider, Ranney and Fitzgerald — now a partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom — will join the following as transit task force members:
◆ Carole Brown, former CTA chairman and currently managing director of Barclay’s Capital.
◆ Robert Guy, Illinois state legislative director for the United Transportation Union.
◆ Adrienne Holloway, assistant professor of political science at DePaul University’s School of Public Service.
◆ Sylvia Jenkins, president of Moraine Valley Community College.
◆ Nick Palmer, chief of staff for Will County Executive Larry Walsh and force behind a “coordinated paratransit effort in eastern Will County,’’
◆ Tony Paulauski, executive director of the Arc of Illinois, a disability advocacy group, and chair of the Pace Blue Ribbon Committee on Paratransit.
◆ Raul Raymundo, executive director of the Resurrection Project, a community development organization.
◆ Robert Reiter Jr., secretary-treasurer of the Chicago Federation of Labor.
◆ Ashish Sen, a CTA board member and former director of the Bureau of Transportation Statistics for the U.S. Department of Transportation.
◆ Don Tantillo, retired Wheeling High School teacher who drove a CTA bus while earning a college education.
◆ Kathryn Tholin, CEO of the Center for Neighborhood Technology.
◆ Sonia Walwyn, vice president of Duff & Phelps and member of the tax services group.