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Nope, our theory Lightfoot was blocking Carter from meeting with alders wasn’t “ridiculous”

Lightfoot at the October 26 press conference. Photo: John Greenfield

At an October 26 Chicago City Council meeting, Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th), introduced an ordinance that would have required CTA officials to meet with alderpersons on a quarterly basis, including transit agency president Dorval Carter Jr., if deemed necessary. This legislation, which was supported by 41 other alders, was a direct response to Carter skipping a September 14 transportation committee meeting on poor bus and train service. Vasquez wore a CTA ghost costume to City Hall that day to highlight the problem of "ghost runs," buses and trains that appear on Transit Tracker screens but vanish before they show up.

In response, Alders Jason Ervin (28th) and Scott Waguespack (32nd), allies of Mayor Lori Lightfoot, assigned Vasquez's ordinance to the Council’s rules committee. That's a common strategy used to indefinitely shelve legislation that the mayor doesn't want to see move forward.

During a press conference that afternoon, I asked the mayor, who gets to appoint the CTA president, and therefore is the transit chief's boss, "Was Ald. Vasquez's ordinance blocked because you would prefer to keep oversight of the CTA and not have aldermen have more say in how the agency operates?'

"That’s a ridiculous suggestion, frankly,” Lightfoot replied.

However, an email mistakenly sent to alders yesterday by a member of Lightfoot's staff, and then later confirmed in a somewhat revised format, showed that my suggestion wasn't so absurd after all. Instead it confirmed that Lightfoot worked behind the scenes to thwart Vasquez's legislation.

As reported by WTTW's Heather Cherone, on Wednesday Lightfoot said that she would no longer block the effort to require CTA staff to meet with alders quarterly, nor would she obstruct a similar proposal requiring Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez to appear before a City Hall committee four times a year. The heads of the Chicago Housing Authority, the City Colleges of Chicago, and the Chicago Park District will also provide reports to alders every three months.

During a presser, Lightfoot said it was “important for members of the City Council to have an opportunity to hear from the CEOs of the sister agencies, WTTW reported." But the mayor didn't respond to a question about why she previously stood in the way of the aldermanic oversight efforts.

Vasquez celebrated the win in this tweet.

WE did it!! Many thanks to @ctaaction, all the organizers, neighbors and everyone who helped us get this accomplished! YOU all delivered this!! Many thanks to @King4thWard who pushed on CPS while our office pushed in CTA! #HugeWin! #WeDeliver

— Ald. Andre Vasquez, Political Account 🌹 (@Andrefor40th) November 16, 2022

"I am grateful to all the neighbors and organizations who organized with us to force this to happen," he later told Streetsblog. "It shows the power of organizing and good government. I look forward to more wins for our people who need it most!"

Let's chalk it up as a victory for a more transparent transit system.

Read the WTTW article here. 

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