Claypool has 'my full confidence' despite Ventra debacle: mayor
December 3, 2013 5:29PM
Updated: December 3, 2013 7:45PM
BY FRAN SPIELMAN
City HALL REPORTER
CTA President Forrest Claypool is holding Cubic Transportation’s “feet to the fire” for the Ventra debacle, but Mayor Rahm Emanuel is not doing the same to Claypool.
That much was obvious Tuesday when the mayor was asked whether Claypool is “in trouble with you” for the botched roll-out of the CTA’s electronic fare payment system.
“Absolutely not,” said Emanuel, who rarely answers questions so directly.
“Forrest always will have and does have my full confidence—more than my full confidence.”
Emanuel is a notorious taskmaster who has already cut loose two CHA chiefs and a Chicago Public Schools CEO who was his marquee hire. Why isn’t he holding Claypool accountable for the Ventra mess that seems to add a new chapter every day?
“He just pulled off a very important effort in revitalizing the Red Line South and managed that very well,” the mayor said.
“He’s holding Cubic’s feet to the fire that they have to deliver a system. He’s providing you the information so you can measure whether they’re making progress or not. And Cubic will not get paid until it works for the customers of the city of Chicago. And they know that.”
Like the last two CTA presidents, Claypool has no background in transportation.
He is a longtime friend of Emanuel and a former political consulting partner of David Axelrod, the mayor’s friend of 30 years who worked together with Emanuel in the Obama White House.
Claypool built his reputation as a political reformer during a tumultuous five-year stint as Park District superintendent under former Mayor Richard M. Daley between two stints as Daley’s chief-of-staff.
Claypool reinforced his reformer credentials as an outspoken member of the Cook County board; he waged an unsuccessful bid in 2006 for county board president.
“No prior experience in parks. None. But under his leadership, Chicago got recognized for being very innovative,” Emanuel said on the day he announced Claypool’s CTA appointment.
Although Claypool is not on the mayor’s hot seat for the Ventra fiasco, Emanuel didn’t hesitate to put him down in public last fall, after pressuring the CTA to provide bus service to a new Walmart supercenter in Pullman in time for a grand opening.
The controversy surrounding the CTA’s broken promise to provide bus service to the new Pullman Park Walmart had threatened to mar the opening of a store Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) spent years fighting to build.
Instead, a jubilant Beale announced at a ribbon-cutting ceremony that the CTA had done an about-face under apparent pressure from City Hall. No longer would CTA buses end more than five blocks away from the new Walmart at 109th and Doty Rd.
Emanuel then took to the podium at the revival-style ceremony and used trademark sarcasm to send a message to Claypool, who was not in attendance.
“This is a great day. Now, I would have been here a little earlier, but I got dropped off about five blocks (away) by CTA and I had to walk” the rest of the way, the mayor joked on that day.
“Forrest ain’t here. Whatever. He’ll be here tomorrow to make sure that bus is here every 20 minutes. But, that’s actually a testament to Anthony [Beale] being clear and getting what he deserves and what is appropriate. You don’t build roads. You don’t build great stores like this so people get dropped off five, six blocks away. They’ve got to get in here.”