Tuesday, August 13, 2013

EXTRA: No “Z” on CTA. That doesn’t mean our political system’s “fixed”

We’re going to be spared the sight of Frank Zuccarelli serving on the board that governs the Chicago Transit Authority. Somehow, I don’t feel that our government is any less corrupt as a result.

ZUCCARELLI: Won't help run CTA
Let’s be honest. The people who were most upset over the prospects of the supervisor of suburban Thornton Township getting an appointment to the Chicago Transit Board were the people who wanted their own political favors repaid.

YES, I’LL ADMIT that the choice of Zuccarelli – who also is committeeman of the portion of the Chicago suburbs that turns out the heaviest Democratic Party vote on Elections Day – is a political payback by Gov. Pat Quinn.

I’m sure it helps that Zuccarelli is one of the few political people who doesn’t privately badmouth the governor – and in fact comes up with nice things to say publicly about Quinn; who usually goes out of his way to include Zuccarelli in as many public appearances as possible to bolster his credibility.

But do I think it was the most corrupt thing we ever would have seen in our local politics? Of course not.

A part of me would have liked to have seen Zuccarelli stand up to the people who are all worked up about his latest appointment. Zuccarelli, however, sent Quinn a letter on Tuesday saying he will not accept the post.

SO QUINN NOW needs to pick somebody else, and Zuccarelli goes back to being a suburban powerbroker.

I’ll admit to thinking one thing being odd about the appointment – the fact that the CTA would have a suburban-oriented official. That board is usually Chicago-oriented, with the suburban people serving on the Metra, Pace or Regional Transportation Authority boards.

DALEY: Has his own "friends"
But to hear RTA officials and gubernatorial candidate William Daley rant and rage about political patronage and political hacks being put into positions for which they’re not qualified is just too over-the-top to take seriously.

Particularly from Daley, whose family has benefitted from connections and used their own authority to make similar appointments.

DOES ANYONE REALLY believe that Daley would ever have been considered for Commerce secretary or White House chief of staff if not for whom his father, and brother, were?

QUINN: Patronage? Or qualified
Speaking out against Zuccarelli comes across as Daley wanting the post kept open so that HE can be the one who fills it with a friendly face.

By no means is Zuccarelli (whose elective office is as head of the board that runs South Suburban College in South Holland) a good-government reformer type. But his appointment was no more self-serving than 99 percent of other political appointments made by so many officials.

Although the idea that Zuccarelli wouldn’t mind having an income from some place other than his political post isn’t new.

HE USED TO serve on the Employee Appeals Board overseen by the Cook County Board. Until, that is, the post had its salary taken away by the county board when a majority of its members “got religion,” so to speak and voted to eliminate the compensation effective June 1. Although the ones who benefitted from Zuccarelli in the past were among his supporters back then.
Zuccarelli wasn’t getting rich (it only paid $12,000 annually) from the county post. But a batch of small salaries can add up to a large income if handled properly. A CTA board post would have helped replace that portion of the income.

I only hope that the people who were complaining about Zuccarelli don’t think that denying him this appointment has somehow fixed our “system.” There are many more people who are benefitting from similar situations.

But they aren’t Friends of Quinn, so they’re not the targets of partisan political criticism.


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