Capitol Fax.com - Your Illinois News Radar » #BustTheTransitFiefdoms
SUBSCRIBE to Capitol Fax      Advertise Here      About     Exclusive Subscriber Content     Updated Posts    Contact Rich Miller
CapitolFax.com
To subscribe to Capitol Fax, click here.
#BustTheTransitFiefdoms

Monday, Jun 17, 2024 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Background is here. My weekly syndicated newspaper column

“What was supposed to be a simple storage warehouse for the Metra transit agency has now buried the nation’s fourth-busiest commuter rail system in a sinking money pit, the ABC7 I-Team has learned.”

The Chicago broadcast station’s scoop last week is an almost perfect encapsulation of why northeastern Illinois’ mass transit fiefdoms need to be busted and reformed.

For your background, the Chicago regional transit system is facing a steep $730 million fiscal cliff in fiscal year 2026, which starts a year from July 1. Gov. J.B. Pritzker and several legislators are demanding that, in exchange for any new operating money, the management of the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra, Pace and the Regional Transportation Authority all be reformed. They’ve all operated as fiefdoms for decades, resisting accountability, cooperation and any attempts to streamline management.

The CTA is the most well-known villain in the transit governance debacles, but it clearly ain’t alone.

Metra bought a south suburban warehouse for $6.8 million in 2020. The purchase did not follow any formal purchasing procedures because, apparently, Metra doesn’t have any. Nobody at Metra would even admit to knowing who touted the property, which was owned at the time by a Metra hand sanitizer provider.

“The [internal Metra report] also stated it could not identify which Metra staffer initially brought the Harvey warehouse property sale option to the Executive Leadership Team prior to its board approval,” ABC7 reported.

Was the property brought to the agency by an independent broker? “No,” Metra’s CEO Jim Derwinski told his board last month. “(T)his was mostly our engineering and materials management team out looking for something that was available,” Derwinski said, according to the ABC7 report.

Unreal.

“Derwinski said the agency was facing potential layoffs of its workforce [during the pandemic], and Metra’s executive leadership team saw the building purchase as an opportunity to repurpose employees to work on and make improvements to the warehouse,” the station reported. Um, they have no union contracts over there?

Metra bought the property “as is” and has since spent another $11.1 million. But the property will require “tens of millions of dollars more to finish” and will take at least two more years, the report continued.

OK, look, Harvey definitely needs investment. And I will be the first to admit our state procurement laws are an unnecessarily complicated mess. Small businesses and nonprofits simply do not have the ability to navigate those laws unassisted, which makes handing out grants an excruciating process.

But, I mean, what the heck is going on over there? Metra is throwing tens of millions of dollars at a warehouse without any sort of purchasing process? The board seemed to be surprised at how deep a hole the agency had dug itself into during its meeting last month. That’s a massive failure by the board, but where the heck are the operating rules?

The thing that just completely blew my mind about the ABC7 story was Derwinski’s cavalier attitude about the taxpayer money it had spent and is committed to spending in the future.

Metra was running short on operating dollars during the pandemic, Derwinski explained, so the agency “saw an opportunity to shift workforce into this building at that period of time to keep them working under capital dollars.” The original purchase was made with state Rebuild Illinois bond funds.

“The fiscal cliff is an operating dollar problem,” Derwinski said. “The capital dollar side about making, taking care of the assets that we’re entrusted to take care of, that’s this conversation right here. The fiscal cliff, it’s real. It’s big. But that really has to do with the operation.”

Excuse me, but how the heck is the state government supposed to trust Metra to spend a massive operations bailout wisely when it’s blowing tens of millions of capital dollars on a boondoggle with no discernible process and almost criminally lax oversight and shrugging it all off as no big deal?

This is exactly why reforms are necessary.

Bust. The. Fiefdoms.

       

14 Comments
  1. - I hate Scott Turow - Monday, Jun 17, 24 @ 7:56 am:

    Great stuff thanks Rich.


  2. - Just Me 2 - Monday, Jun 17, 24 @ 8:05 am:

    Here is what most don’t understand: the politicians that appoint the board members like the structure.


  3. - Keyrock - Monday, Jun 17, 24 @ 8:16 am:

    Excellent column.
    (I also appreciate the handle “I hate Scott Turow.”)


  4. - Stop Appointing Political Buddies - Monday, Jun 17, 24 @ 8:21 am:

    This goes for both sides of the aisle - stop appointing political buddies that are totally unqualified for these positions at the state and federal leve; - these boards are prime examples - plus Pete Bittigieg at the Federal level.

    While we are at it get rid of the Illinois Sports Authority and let sports stadiums go to referendum like in KC. Stop giving welfare to Billionaires


  5. - DuPage Saint - Monday, Jun 17, 24 @ 8:24 am:

    If you buy a property “as is” you better have a great engineering report that the property will meet your use requirements. I suppose it needed an EPA clean up too.


  6. - Stacey Erickson - Monday, Jun 17, 24 @ 8:43 am:

    This reminds me of the Warehouse in Ash Street in Springfield. A friend of Governor Rauner who lives in New York buys it and weeks later CMS leases it, insulates it and puts in a new HVAC system so the metal shed will be suitable to be used for long term-storage. Governor Rauner overflowed with connivances.


  7. - Larry Bowa Jr. - Monday, Jun 17, 24 @ 9:09 am:

    It’s so simple, when there’s a demand slowdown you just tell IUOE Local 150 that they’re Laborers now. Then they get busy refurbishing warehouses for you.
    That’s definitely how that all works. Can I have some more millions now?


  8. - TJ - Monday, Jun 17, 24 @ 9:29 am:

    If we don’t bust the fiefdoms, can we at least start proclaiming titles of ennoblement for them? Dibs on Marquess of Mars (Station). I also proclaim Rich Miller the Duke of Ogilvie.


  9. - James the Intolerant - Monday, Jun 17, 24 @ 9:31 am:

    There were at most 10 employees working on the renovation of the warehouse, so Derwinskinis grasping at straws for an answer. Project was pushed by his two top hands and the day to fay oversight manager all of a sudden retired. But no worries, he went to work for Metra’s PMO.
    CTA gets the deserved bad press, but Metra has top-level bloated salaries with nowhere near the ridership. Metra has 13 employees making more than $200K/year, Derwinski leading tge way at $325K.
    The Board approved this purchase and no one even asked about a property inspection. Metra has a Real Estate department, where were they. Saddest part is that this will all fade away and nothing will happen. Nothing to see here.


  10. - thisjustinagain - Monday, Jun 17, 24 @ 11:51 am:

    New Jingle: “Metra, the way to really spend.”


  11. - EP1082 - Monday, Jun 17, 24 @ 12:10 pm:

    As a daily Metra rider this doesn’t surprise me. I’m still hoping they will right size the schedules so my train is not so crowded. Management and operations is not their forte.


  12. - Rahm's Parking Meter - Monday, Jun 17, 24 @ 12:28 pm:

    I rode Metra today, the arrogance is striking and when trains are moving out of order, they can’t even care to send updated notices for goodness sake.
    Break it up.


  13. - The Way I See It - Monday, Jun 17, 24 @ 12:30 pm:

    I was today years old when I realized that PACE and the RTA were separate entities. Why?


  14. - Chicago 20 - Monday, Jun 17, 24 @ 12:39 pm:

    $6.8 million is nothing.
    $730 million is peanuts.
    Wake me up when $12 billion of debt backed with sales tax revenue without an adequate revenue stream is news.
    The pay the executives bonuses to lose money who can’t pay the vig without scooping and tossing.
    Rules are meaningless without accountability.


TrackBack URI

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


* Question of the day
* Bost and Bailey set aside feud as Illinois Republicans tout unity at RNC delegate breakfast
* State pre-pays $422 million in pension payments
* Dillard's gambit
* Isabel’s morning briefing
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Supplement to today’s edition
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today's edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)
* Live coverage
* Selected press releases (Live updates)
* Illinois react (Updated and comments opened)
* Yesterday's stories

Support CapitolFax.com
Visit our advertisers...

...............

...............

...............

...............


Loading


Main Menu
Home
Illinois
YouTube
Pundit rankings
Obama
Subscriber Content
Durbin
Burris
Blagojevich Trial
Advertising
Updated Posts
Polls

Archives
July 2024
June 2024
May 2024
April 2024
March 2024
February 2024
January 2024
December 2023
November 2023
October 2023
September 2023
August 2023
July 2023
June 2023
May 2023
April 2023
March 2023
February 2023
January 2023
December 2022
November 2022
October 2022
September 2022
August 2022
July 2022
June 2022
May 2022
April 2022
March 2022
February 2022
January 2022
December 2021
November 2021
October 2021
September 2021
August 2021
July 2021
June 2021
May 2021
April 2021
March 2021
February 2021
January 2021
December 2020
November 2020
October 2020
September 2020
August 2020
July 2020
June 2020
May 2020
April 2020
March 2020
February 2020
January 2020
December 2019
November 2019
October 2019
September 2019
August 2019
July 2019
June 2019
May 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019
January 2019
December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004

Blog*Spot Archives
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005

Syndication

RSS Feed 2.0
Comments RSS 2.0




Hosted by MCS SUBSCRIBE to Capitol Fax Advertise Here Mobile Version Contact Rich Miller