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Metra not invited to first Metra committee meeting?

Wednesday, Sep 4, 2013

Posted by Barton Lorimor (@bartonlorimor)

* The set-up…

Gov. Pat Quinn appointed the 15-member group after weeks of controversy at Metra over the $871,000 severance package awarded to ousted CEO Alex Clifford and the allegations Clifford raised of political interference at the agency….Quinn asked the group to develop ways to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse at the CTA, Metra and Pace, as well as the oversight agency, the Regional Transportation Authority, and to streamline overall system operations.

This part struck me as somewhat odd…

The meeting was awkward because the elephant in the room was not in the room at all. Metra officials were not invited to attend, and Acting Executive Director Don Orseno spent most of the session standing in a hallway outside. When he finally entered and took a seat in the back, no one on the commission took public note that anyone from Metra was even in attendance.

I find the best parties are the ones where the guest of honor isn’t included, too.

* The Sun-Times editorial board is not amused by this whole process…

The task force’s deadline for initial recommendations is before the Oct. 22 fall Legislature’ session , with a final report due Jan. 31. Finding a politically viable solution that’s eluded us until now is tall order for a panel just beginning its work.

However, the board is encouraged by a reform proposal that would combine Metra with the RTA, CTA, and Pace into one entity. The theory is doing so would save administrative costs and improve the intergovernmental cooperation to address capital needs. There’s also this…

Quinn said Tuesday during the task force’s first meeting that the four agencies use 16 different appointing authorities to name 47 board members who are paid $10,000 to $50,000 each.

Task force background materials go even further, saying “the rationale for payments to multiple board members should be examined.’’

The materials also note that transit board members are not required to have “background checks, experience or knowledge of transit systems.’’ Once appointed, “it can be difficult to remove a board member even when there is just cause,’’ the informational packet for task force members says.

We certainly wouldn’t want that to happen.

* Meanwhile, Greg Hinz was on the ball when it came to a ruling in the RTA’s lawsuit against businesses opening satellite offices in an attempt to dodge paying sales taxes…

A Cook County Circuit Court judge dismissed large portions of a suit by the Regional Transportation Authority against exurban Channahon and Kankakee Aug. 30 in a dispute over sales tax collection. But other counts in the $100-million damage suit remain alive, pending a decision in a related case before the Illinois Supreme Court.

In hjs decision, Judge Peter Flynn said the suit, which also includes Chicago and Cook County as plaintiffs, is incorrect as a matter of law in some instances, but said other charges can be refiled with more substantiation of specific incidents.

* Related…

* Editorial: What will it take to oust the Metra board holdouts?

* Editorial: Damage control at Metra

* Franks Wants Special Session to Fire Metra Board, Hire Emergency Manager

- Posted by Barton Lorimor        

10 Comments
  1. - low level - Wednesday, Sep 4, 13 @ 8:15 am:

    Great - Framks has another issue he can grandstand on. Just what we needed.


  2. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Sep 4, 13 @ 8:17 am:

    I find it hard to believe that suburban lawmakers will go along with rolling Metra and PACE into one entity with the CTA.

    That might seem the most logical and efficient thing to do, but logic and efficiency had nothing to do with the current setup. It was all about regionalism.

    Under one operating entity, the interests of Chicago transit riders will inevitably dominate because that’s where the lion’s share of transit riders are.

    Those empty PACE buses tooling around in the far suburbs will go the way of the do-do.


  3. - David P. Graf - Wednesday, Sep 4, 13 @ 8:28 am:

    Consolidation won’t work because suburban voters don’t want their tax dollars to help transit riders who reside in Chicago.


  4. - Niles Township - Wednesday, Sep 4, 13 @ 8:50 am:

    I think Metra shouldn’t be invited frankly. I’d like to see a solution imposed from the outside on RTA, Metra, CTA and Pace that consiidates, eliminates and reinvigorates where appropriate. I’d like to see real transporation experts involved. Of course, the likelihood of that is zero.


  5. - zatoichi - Wednesday, Sep 4, 13 @ 9:25 am:

    47 board members get paid somewhere around $1.2M, have no requirement for “background checks, experience or knowledge of transit systems” and can rationalize a healthy severence package for an ousted CEO. Apparently fiscal and operational management skill is not a high priority. Where do I apply for that part-time job?


  6. - Anon. - Wednesday, Sep 4, 13 @ 9:48 am:

    ==Where do I apply for that part-time job?==

    If you have to ask, you don’t meet the most important qualification.


  7. - Seriously? - Wednesday, Sep 4, 13 @ 10:25 am:

    “The materials also note that transit board members are not required to have `background checks, experience or knowledge of transit systems.’”

    You mean, guys like Frank Zuccarelli? Quinn has no shame. None.


  8. - Just Me - Wednesday, Sep 4, 13 @ 12:42 pm:

    It doesn’t bother me that there isn’t a requirement that board members have transit experience. Board members are political jobs, and just like you don’t require someone to be an expert in education to be on a school board, or an expert in municipal law to be an alderman, you don’t necessarily need to be an expert in transit to serve on its Board. That is why you hire experts to work on the staff. THE BOARD’S RESPONSIBILITY IS TO MAKE SURE THAT THE NEEDS OF THEIR CONSTITUENCY ARE BEING ADDRESSED BY THE PROFESSIONAL STAFF.

    Just my two cents.


  9. - Riding taxpayer - Wednesday, Sep 4, 13 @ 1:21 pm:

    How did back to back scandals at Metra turn into a stampede to consolidate all the transit agencies? If the problems are at Metra, maybe folks should be focused on, oh I don’t know, maybe Metra? Rather than the entire transportation network of Northeastern Illinois!?


  10. - George Swimmer - Wednesday, Sep 4, 13 @ 10:59 pm:

    What a great opportunity. I see Metra as a much safer, better run, less in the news commuter railroad. For nearly 2 decades I have worked with some of Metra’s employees, locomotive engineers, conductors, directors of safety, through my involvement with the DuPage Railroad Safety Council. They too want a railroad they can take pride in. I am a licensed CPA, have many insurance and securities licenses, a former Marine, etc. It is now over 2 weeks since I applied to be a Metra Board member because I believe I can help bring about positive change. I have yet to hear a word from DuPage County Chairman Dan Cronin’s office where I submitted my application. I am a fairly new Facebook user, but hear that it is a powerful tool. Can it help in my quest to be a Metra Board member?


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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