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An Open Letter to Gabe Klein

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Ted Rosenbaum

Former athlete, full-time engineer. I'd tell you more but I'd have to kill you.

Dear Mr. Klein,

I heard that come January 1, you'll be out of a job.  What a bummer.  But Washington's loss has to be someone's gain, right? Have you thought about Chicago?

First, let me level with you: Yes, we get snow regularly.  But we know better than to proclaim a snowfall as "Snowmageddon" until it's over 2 feet.  We have the infrastructure to clear it--and a populace that isn't afraid to use a shovel (perhaps you remember one of our former residents referring to our "flinty toughness"?)  And yes, as a result, we get enough potholes to make driving more painful than a trip to the dentist.  But we're already the home of Lollapalooza, why not bring your famed (?) Potholepalooza to town?

But!                                      Gabe Klein Dreaming.png

You may not have heard, but we're gonna have a new Mayor here next year.  You joined Mayor Fenty's staff in Washington halfway through his term and accomplished a ton.  Imagine getting in at the start of a new mayor's term (our first new Mayor in over 2 decades!) and having nearly free reign, since the new Mayor's priorities will likely be on reducing crime and improving the school system.

Although actual policy statements have been rare thus far in the campaign, everyone agrees that the Mayor's office needs to become more open.  You helped bring DDOT into the 21st century by actually establishing a twitter presence, opening data sets to the public, and more--CDOT needs that kind of reform badly.

You can be the first great Transportation Commissioner here since... well, it's been a damn long time.  We've had repeated turnover in the job in recent years as Mayor Daley tires of each new placeholder.  While they've all mostly moved the ball forward on incremental reforms, it's only been at the whim of a Mayor whose attention is obviously divided.  So while we have a bike plan (which DC's now almost dwarfs when you consider the disparity in size between the cities themselves), and a Central Area Action Plan, and even a few Streetscape plans, no one has laid out the grand vision that Chicago needs to become a city that works for everyone--not just drivers--once again.

And just think: You won't have to fight anymore turf wars.  The National Parks Service won't claim jurisdiction over every random triangle park or circle and then fail to maintain it.  Though there are certainly NIMBYs here like anywhere else, there's no Committee of 100 to try to thwart you at every turn.  It's all yours.  We only have a few diagonal avenues to break up our lovely street grid, a fantastic slate upon which you can build a shining beacon of Bus Rapid Transit, bicycle infrastructure, and whatever else you want.

Speaking of bike infrastructure, did I mention Chicago's topography? We're flat.  Utterly, completely, incredibly flat.  When you try to push out a bike sharing program (because I'm sure Alta would be more than willing to work with you again to bring their system to America's third largest city), you'll never have to worry about overcrowding at stations at the bottom of hills--there aren't any.

You've worked hard to bridge gaps between the rich and poor areas of DC, promoting capital-intensive projects like the new streetcar lines in the worse-off areas, hoping to spur improvement.  Chicago is one of the most segregated cities in the country, and it's high time our transportation options linked these areas rather than divided them.

So go take your vacation in January (you've clearly earned it).  And when you get back, come by and leave your card with the Mayoral frontrunners.  It'll be one less tough decision for them, and one new fantastic opportunity for you.

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3 Comments

dcresident said:

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Psst, he's incompetent. Just a relatively affable/photogenic salesman with no judgment or planning ability. Typical of Fenty appointees in that regard.

First bikeshare progam failed, second looks likely to as well. Streetcar program is a debacle -- build first, plan later and keep hoping someone (feds, Council, consultants will bail you out).

transitJunkie said:

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As a former resident of Chicago and a current resident of DC, I have been following both cities transportation movement closely and consider myself an activist in the transit realm. Klein is exactly what is needed for a city like Chicago and did a yeoman's job in DC under Mayor Adrian Fenty. The new mayor made a big error in not asking him to stay and if you follow DC politics you can see Klein would not have fit in with the new disaster of an administration which will likely lose any budget autonomy under Mr. Gray.

Also to note, "dcresident" is the online alias of Sarah Campbell and what she posts as in D.C. She is the new mayor's former budget director when he was on the council in Washington, and the woman who tried to kill the streetcar for her preservationist clique. She hates Klein and is jealous of his success it seems.

If the new bikeshare is failing while it is already expanding due to demand, or streetcar which just got $100 million in funding last week, then failing is pretty great. I wish Chi-town could fail as well as D.C.

DCist said:

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Your wish has been granted. Good luck Gabe Klein! Glad to see you already have a few supporters!

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