Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Adding to his political resume – Claypool “friend” picks him for CTA post

It's good for Forrest to be the buddy ...
He has been a Cook County commissioner, a Park District boss, a member of the county Board of (Tax) Appeals and was once a chief-of-staff to Richard M. Daley as mayor.

There may well be a few more titles that Forrest Claypool has held during his professional life in Chicago-area politics. But the man whom many people were willing to view as the ultimate goo-goo who would reform Chicago-style politics when he ran against Joseph Berrios for Cook County assessor got himself another position to add to his resume.

UNDER MAYOR-ELECT RAHM Emanuel, Claypool will serve as the president of the Chicago Transit Authority. A real goo-goo wouldn’t be getting this many chances to be a part of the government establishment.

Not that I’m knocking Claypool. It’s just that learning Tuesday of Emanuel’s decision to grant a position to his buddy of some three decades confirms in my mind all the thoughts I had about the Claypool “phenomenon” of recent years.

Too many people viewing Forrest as the great goo-goo hope in his bids for county board President against John Stroger (which turned into the Todd Stroger years) and for assessor against Berrios.

As I noted, the two men have known each other for years. It is totally predictable that Emanuel would include Claypool somewhere within his mayoral administration.

CLAYPOOL DID COME out publicly for Emanuel fairly early in the mayoral campaign season (back in the days when anybody who would have predicted a 55 percent “victory” for Rahm in the first round of this year’s election season would have been considered insane).

Of course, that came after Emanuel offered up tepid support (not a proper endorsement) for Claypool’s bid for county assessor.
... of the mayor-elect

Could this be the latest political favor – giving the former county board member who has been politically unemployed since losing that bid last year for assess a position with the CTA?

It’s not exactly the highest-ranking position within city government. But it is a post that will make Claypool a prominent political person. After all, he’ll be in charge of the buses and trains that comprise the bulk of Chicago’s public transportation.

OF COURSE, IT also will mean that Claypool will be the man who gets the blame for every single mishap that takes place on board a subway car, or every single gaffe by a CTA official of any rank.

Then again, dealing with public abuse is part of the role of being a public official – the reason why political people snicker to themselves when they joke about their work being “the people’s business.”

Not that Claypool was the only friendly political person given an appointment by Emanuel – who loses the “-elect” in his Mayor title in mid-May.

Former Alderman Terry Peterson, who had been named chairman of the Chicago Transit Board, learned he will get to keep that title, which means he will be working with Claypool to keep the trains running on time.

THAT IS PETERSON’S reward for backing Emanuel early in his mayoral bid.

So has Claypool “sold out” his goo-goo credentials by being willing to accept such an appointment? I’d reiterate that such credentials were an exaggeration to begin with.

So his reward for being willing to go along with the new administration (which in many ways is the one that will continue the ways of the old administration) is to get a plum political post.

Anybody who thinks that the CTA isn’t important doesn’t understand the mentality of Chicago – where many people do rely on mass transit to get around – mainly because parking a car on city streets often involves paying ridiculously high fees to do it legally, or a willingness to run up tickets and risk having one’s car “booted” if they do it illegally.

CLAYPOOL IS JUST the latest of appointments that have been announced by Emanuel in his desire to show that he’s capable of running city government from his first day in office.

He made the big deal of bringing in Jean-Claude Brizard to be head of the Chicago Public Schools. He formerly was head of the public schools in Rochester, N.Y., which means Emanuel will be able to claim he’s bringing in an outside expert who will shake things up within the schools system.

It is a system in desperate need of a shakeup.

But it also means that the pressure will be on Emanuel to stay within the department when picking a new Chicago Police superintendant.

THE CHICAGO NEWS Cooperative is reporting how former Seattle police Chief Gil Kerlikowske (who most recently was director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy) is in line for the position – having met with Emanuel last week to talk about the position.

Yet this is the same department that rejected the idea of Jody Weis as police superintendant because he was former FBI. I doubt that the same police bureaucrats who had a hang-up about being run by a “junior G-man” would want a “drug czar” in charge.

Which may be all the more reason for Emanuel to have a friend like Claypool in such a prominent position. When Rahm gets whacked about by other city officials for everything that goes wrong, it will help him ever so much to have at least one official who likes him personally, as well as professionally.


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