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updated: 7/25/2013 7:41 PM

Daley: Let governor appoint some of Metra board

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  • Bill Daley

      Bill Daley

 
 

Democratic candidate for governor Bill Daley wants to reorganize the Metra board, allowing the Illinois governor to appoint five of 11 members, he said Thursday.

Daley also wants to reorganize the duties of the Regional Transit Authority in an effort to save money.

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"Leadership is about solving problems, even if it means upsetting the status quo," Daley said in a statement. "The status quo at both the RTA and Metra isn't working, and it's time to make major changes."

Daley's ideas join a litany of calls for change at Metra following its former CEO Alex Clifford getting a severance package worth as much as $718,000 and subsequent investigations turning up allegations of patronage requests.

Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation this week that would strip future Chicago-area transit board members of pension and health care benefits.

Now, all Metra board members are appointed by county boards. Daley's proposal would allow six of the 11 board members to be appointed by counties.

Daley also wants to create a single fare card that would be usable on Metra, Pace and the CTA.

Also on Thursday, Regional Transit Authority Board Chairman John Gates blasted Metra leaders for the secrecy surrounding Clifford's severance package.

"Unfortunately, Metra leadership took steps to ensure the RTA board, much like Illinois taxpayers, would remain in the dark about the severance package," Gates said in a heated statement.

"RTA staff is thoroughly reviewing thousands of documents related to this matter," he said. "When this audit is complete, the RTA will issue a report along with recommendations."

The statement came a day after Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel questioned the RTA's role when asked if he still supported Chicago Metra board appointee Larry Huggins, who's been under fire.

"I would like to say there's an RTA board that's supposed to have some oversight ... I would like to know what they were doing while this was going on?" Emanuel said. He also said it was important to wait until various investigations were finished before jumping to conclusions.

Metra officials declined to comment.

Meanwhile, one key lawmaker involved in a separate Illinois House inquiry into the separation agreement is transitioning to another job. Mass Transit Committee Chairman and state Rep. Deb Mell was appointed to the Chicago City Council this week to fill a vacancy created by her father's retirement.

Her committee grilled Metra officials July 11 and called for another meeting with Clifford. But without a chairman, the process is left in limbo.

A chairman must be appointed by House Speaker Michael Madigan, who became one subject of ongoing investigations after he admitted to asking Clifford to give a campaign donor a pay raise.

Committee member Rep. David Harris, an Arlington Heights Republican, said he's seeking a replacement as quickly as possible.

"However, remember that for the committee to meet, it has to have approval from the speaker's office," he said.

State Rep. Michael Tryon, a Crystal Lake Republican and the committee's top GOP member, has sent a letter to Madigan asking for a meeting soon.

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