Daley's rich legacy includes six different CTA presidents - with varying degrees of success

As Mayor Richard Daley ticks down his last seven days as mayor, let’s
review the legacy of his 22 years of choices for CTA president. I
shamelessly steal this idea from this Sun-Times report: “Daley’s appointees ranged from good to bad to embarrassing.”

1989-1992: Daley retained Alfred Savage as president when he is inaugurated in 1989. Savage lasted three years. Sun-Times reporter Michael Gillis wrote in February of 1992: “Sources said Savage, who has a long resume of transit
experience, was replaced because he wasn’t making the tough decisions
needed to guide the agency through lean economic times. A string of
public relations missteps apparently speeded his departure.”

1992-1996: Daley gave a preview of his future choices for president by picking someone he called a great manager — Robert Belcaster — rather than a transit expert. Belcaster was a real estate developer and Daley friend whom the mayor first tapped to run the “lethargic” Public Building Commission. He eventually lost his job after disclosures that Belcaster had bought 10,000 shares of stock in a company planning to do business with the CTA.

1996-1997:
After Belcaster’s resignation, Daley chose David Mosena
as CTA president. Mosena was the first former Daley chief of staff to
run the agency. His tenure also was the shortest. Not long after pushing
through cuts in bus and rail service — including cuts in owl service
on the Purple, Green and Douglas branch of the Blue Line
— Mosena
resigned to take over as president of the Museum of Science and
industry.

1997-2007: The mayor selected as CTA president another former chief of
staff — Frank Kruesi. But Kruesi did boast at least some
transportation management experience (though not in running an agency):
President Bill Clinton had tapped him as
assistant transportation secretary in charge
of domestic transportation after his chief of staff stint. As
Chicago-l.org reports: “Shortly after Kruesi took over the reins, the
CTA began
to post a yearly budget surplus, the first time the
authority had not been in deficit since 1990.”

Key reasons for those surpluses:

  • The service cuts by Mosena.
  • The CTA introduced magnetic strip fare cards and stopped accepting cash fares by rail station agents.
  • A big reduction in work force with both the elimination of
    conductors on L trains and the early retirement of 1,600 employees, with
    only half replaced.

I’m not here to recount the rest of CTA history under Kruesi or any president under Daley. I’ll leave that to Chicago-L.org,
and I’m sure Scooter and Jack can chime in if they wish. Suffice it to
say there were plenty of ups and downs during Kruesi’s reign. He resigned in April 2007.

2007-2009: Guess what? Mayor Daley in April 2007 named his former chief of staff — Ron Huberman
— to lead the CTA. Huberman brought his “performance management

approach to a CTA not accustomed to being run like a Fortune 500
company. Huberman used the CTA nearly daily to commute to work from his
Uptown home to the West Loop CTA headquarters, often chatting up other
riders. He also asked CTA Tattler to facilitate two “coffees with Ron,” during which he briefed Tattler readers on ideas such as for the longitudinal seating
in the new Series 500 rail cars. Huberman finished the Bus Tracker
program, and narrowly averted big service cuts and fare hikes when the
state Legislature in early 2008 raised the sales and real estate
transfer taxes to close a huge CTA budget hole. Daley had other
challenges in mind for Huberman,
and in January 2009, Daley picked him as Chicago Public Schools
president after President Obama snatched away Arne Duncan as U.S.
secretary of the Dept. of Transportation.

2009-2011 (present):
With Huberman’s shift to CPS, Daley rearranged the chairs of his “cabinet” again in tapping Richard Rodriguez
as CTA president. Rodriguez was Daley’s aviation commissioner, and
prior to that was Daley’s buildings commissioner.
Rodriguez didn’t get as much help from the Legislature as Huberman, and
did finally have to cut bus service 18% and rail service by 9%. Among
accomplishments, Huberman oversaw the introduction of the popular Train
Tracker, but only after a number of fits and starts.

Now it’s Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel’s turn. Time will tell how Forrest
Claypool, his pick for CTA president, will fare in his role — and whether
Emanuel leaves such a long legacy of CTA — and other — city agency
leaders.

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  • As you note, probably not worth rehashing these people's accomplishments, or probably more importantly lack thereof, or spin of the latter. You did point out that the only reason Kruesi might have been under budget one year was because of Mosena's cuts.

    The one constant throughout this is "Daley retained" "Daley gave a preview .. by picking" "Daley chose" "Mayor Daley .. named" and "Daley rearranged the chairs of his 'cabinet' again in tapping..." Now we have "Mayor Elect Emanuel selected..."

    ISN'T THERE A CTA BOARD?

    I guess that's what happens when you have 22 years of puppet government. Chicagoans don't even see that any more.

    BTW, since you said you live in Rogers Park, do you have any comment on this report in chicagobus.org that someone is tagging up the cars in Howard Yard, and CTA's former vigilance in preventing that is apparently gone?

  • You forgot to mention that Mosena and Daley also got rid of conductors.

  • In reply to ibilldavis:

    Well, I did mention it under Kruesi as a reason why there were budget surpluses under hi, But you are correct that it actually happened under Mosena.

  • Good points Jack. Obviously, the board hasn't served its mandated role of selecting a president in many years.

    And thanks for the tip on the tagged cars at Howard. I will check that out.

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    "Obviously, the board hasn't served its mandated role of selecting a president in many years."

    Or with regard to much else. The last critical debate reported in the press was Leonis and Zagotta questioning leasing 150 buses while the 2007 Doomsday cuts were still on the table. Brown put a little (not much) cold water on the consultant's report about the Airport Express. Of course, now there are only Daley and Quinn appointees, and hence probably no critical discussion.

    Unlike Pace and NICTD, I don't see board meeting minutes posted on the Chicago Transit Board Meetings site. Of course, there probably isn't any point to posting "the consent agenda was approved 5-0."

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    Kreusi's sole achievement was making himself look ridiculous wearing those fluorescent yellow jackets all the time.
    Other than that, he let the entire track structure deteriorate, which we on the North Side are now paying for in long, long rides due to the slow zones north of Lawrence.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    It seems like a close contest...Kreusi's slicker vs. Rodriguez's baseball cap.

    Not much difference in effect, though. Just some visual effect behind da Mare during a press conference.

    Maybe Emanuel will get Claypool one of those trackworkers' safety jackets. Maybe even a pickaxe.

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