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The [Monday] Papers

A Tribune examination of thousands of documents in a federal investigative file adds ballast to those of us who have long thought the mayor's fancy flowers and power-washed downtown streets were the perfect front for a city whose realities fail to live up to its picture-perfect postcards.

In this case, it's the CTA - just the latest in a long line of city agencies and municipal projects riddled with incompetence and corruption that somehow fails to attach itself to the mayor who has overseen it for 18 years.

"Thousands of pages containing documents and transcribed interviews with CTA workers tell the hidden story of why track inspections were hit and miss, repairs were backlogged and managers either failed to correct dangerously deteriorated track conditions or claimed they were unaware of them," the paper found.

"The core issue, investigators found, was not funding troubles, but a gross lack of management and oversight by the CTA and its parent agency, the Regional Transportation Authority. Investigators were unable to determine what had become of thousands of inspection and maintenance reports and are unsure whether they were done at all or were either lost or destroyed.

"It's a disturbing picture of the nation's second-largest transit system, which each day carries half a million passengers a total of 225,000 miles over its eight lines."

The paper's findings, unsurprisingly, directly contradict the mayor's claim last week that the latest problems on the Blue Line were not the result of systemic failure, but of a few individuals doing their jobs poorly.

The CTA, some readers may conclude, is unridable.

"The NTSB stopped short of saying commuters should keep off CTA trains," the Trib reports. "But spokesman Peter Knudson said: 'We believe the CTA could be significantly safer.'"

I'll say. Consider:

"CTA inspectors said that some foremen ignored verbal warnings and paperwork about unsafe track, prompting some rail inspectors to write their findings on subway walls in chalk as evidence that the weak links on the line had not been simply overlooked.

"Some of the dates scribbled on the walls went back as far as 1996."

Kruesi, described by the Trib as a mayoral confidant, ran the CTA from 1997 until last spring, when he was replaced by Ron Huberman.

The Trib notes that Kruesi is "known for his style of micromanagement."

But his priorities, which surely reflected those of the mayor or he wouldn't have held the job for a decade, were elsewhere.

"[One inspector] told the NTSB it disgusted him to see millions of dollars being spent for station upgrades when the tracks were a mess. 'The train doesn't run on the station,' he said. He pleaded with the safety board to help him."

If I remember correctly, those station upgrades were mostly at stops in gentrifying areas designed to make yuppies feel better about the CTA. There may have even been some flowers and sidewalk sweeping involved. And I'm certain the CTA's public relations campaigns were beefed up with additional funds.

Meanwhile, the system was rotting from the inside out.

Last week, however, the mayor dispatched the City Hall press corps with the back of his hand, even as he declared a new day at the CTA. As Carol Marin writes, it's the same new day Daley has declared over and over again. And not just at the CTA, but at the CPD, the CHA, inside City Hall and its hiring and contract abuses - it's always a new day in Daley's Chicago.

That's how they keep you from seeing what the old day looks like.

Jerry Weller
A non-profit fund formed by Rep. Jerry Weller "raises questions about whether Weller's financial dealings overlap with his wife's - and whether he can legally exclude her assets from his congressional financial disclosure form," the Tribune reports.

Questions Weller is unwilling to answer.

"Weller's office did not respond directly to repeated inquiries this week about what role, if any, Weller played in creating the [non-profit] fund and whether he is actively involved in its operation or fundraising. Instead, Weller issued an e-mail statement through a spokesman."

I think that's called Spam.

Omission Suspicion
Sun-Times publisher John Cruickshank wrote a little note to readers on Sunday about changes in the paper's delivery operations "that will provide you superior service."

Cruickshank failed to mention that the changes come from contracting delivery out to the Tribune.

Dance Craze
The Sun-Times's front-page story (!) on Sunday was about "juking," a term describing dirty dancing. (Hey, remember that movie that middle-aged parents love so much?)

Anyway, the paper approvingly reports on a crackdown on crazy new dancing that mimics sex. Unlike all the forms of dancing in human history up to now.

Remedial Education
I'm far more worried about the adults of America than our teenagers.

Retail Foreign Policy
Turns out that "If you break it, you own it" has never been the policy of the Pottery Barn.

It's Ridiculous
Still a work in progress, but we'd like to introduce

Ultimate Bill Signing
Our fair-haired governor made the Beachwood's very own Julia Gray a happy camper last week when he signed a mixed-martial arts bill into law.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Your name here.


Posted on September 17, 2007

MUSIC - Spring Awakening Wake-Up Call!
TV - Exclusive! Rahm's New TV Gig.
POLITICS - The Political Odds UPDATED.
SPORTS - NHL: CTE Not Our Fault.

BOOKS - Stan Lee, Flawed Hero.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Chicagoetry: I Am Iron Man.

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