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The [Wednesday] Papers

It's good to see we finally have some innovative thinking at the CTA. New transit president Ron Huberman is promising "a leaner, more efficiently run and customer-focused CTA," the Tribune reports.

Finally, someone who gets it! No incoming CTA boss has ever promised more efficiency and better customer service before!

"We will be doing a lot of slashing," Huberman told the Trib.

Maybe just get rid of the trains and buses and keep the rest. Then things would really run smooth and lean.

The Trib reports that Mayor Daley made it clear to Huberman over lunch recently that his top priorities ought to be consistent service, cleanliness, and courtesy. And he should fire as many CTA employees as it takes to reach those goals.

Of course, as the Trib points out, the mantra of outgoing Frank Kruesi was "on time, clean, safe and friendly" service.

I notice that Daley and Huberman have already trimmed "safe" out of the equation, so maybe that's where they plan to save some money.

"Huberman said his lack of familiarity with the CTA are positives that will allow him him to come in with a fresh perspective and introduce a dramatic overhaul without flinching, changes he expects will be applauded in Springfield," the Tribune account says.

And then Huberman asked where he could buy a CTA map, and which train went to Springfield.

Maybe Huberman should start out as a conductor and work his way to the top. Isn't there a deputy somewhere in the agency groomed and ready to go? Did we not have time to conduct a national search and find the best and brightest transit guru available? Can Huberman even name a bus line?

And where, Mr. Mayor, is the vision, really? Look how quickly you pulled together an Olympic bid. Perhaps a CTA 2016 Committee is in order as well.

For years there's been talk of Circle Lines and Midtown Expresses and Red and Blue Line extensions into the further reaches of the suburbs and all we get are three-track operations, bunched-up buses, and burning trains.

Isn't it time for the city to step up with a larger financial commitment (a CTA TIF?) and a regional transportation vision? Can we turn the CTA over to Metra?

This is just theater, and we've all seen this play too many times before.

Retail Politics
Huberman says he will use "mystery shoppers" posing as commuters to measure customer satisfaction and problem-solving.

Memo to Huberman: You already have mystery shoppers. They are called riders.

Butt of Joke
The Sun-Times's self-promotional prostate screening extravaganza is not only shameless, it's medically reckless. You're a newspaper, not a hospital.

Olympic Mirage
"Do I think the Olympic Village is going to look anything like the concept?" Valerie Jarrett, vice chair of Chicago 2016, tells the Sun-Times. "No, I don't."

And neither will the bill.

Rip Van Sneed
When Sneed writes today that "now comes word" that First Ward Ald. Manny Flores is considering running for Congress, do you think she got that from reading the Reporter yesterday, or do you think she just woke up and thought it was 2005?

Maybe Ron Huberman should go over to the Sun-Times and instill some accountability there.

"'Mega project' set for Tower: Eight-Story Mixed-Use Condo Would Replace Three Historic Buildings."

Blowing Barack
Mike Flannery genuflects before our hero.

Note the apologetic and sympathetic tone of his questioning, like when he says "you want to nuance things, but the media says you can't do that at this level . . . " without noting that he is the media!

Also: Why not ask Obama why he dodged Tim Novak and Carol Marin for five weeks? Or why he always endorses Machine candidates?

Instead, the closest we get is "I wouldn't have thought a few months ago that Mr. Rezko's name would come up in a presidential debate. How do you deal with that, how do you put that to rest?"

First, if Flannery ever thought for a moment that Rezko's name wouldn't come up in a debate, it's time for him to give it up and go sell insurance. Then, he doesn't ask about Obama's dealings with Rezko - Senator, you have portrayed yourself as a champion of low-income housing but you weren't aware that a major donor of yours who was the target of city lawsuits for deals you and your law firm worked on had dilapidated buildings without heat in your district? - it's about how he deals with the pesky media. (Answer: bob and weave.)

And Flannery lets him get away with saying "If I weren't a presidential candidate, this wouldn't be an issue. You guys wouldn't be writing about it at all."

I beg to differ. As a U.S. Senator, I certainly think we would be writing about this. Even as a state senator. After all, Rezko's ties to county government are being given a good workout too. Obama's answer, if sincere, shows an appalling lack of judgement in itself.

Finally, watch Obama rewrite history as he says his answer in the South Carolina debate about how he would alter the country's military stance should two U.S. cities have been bombed was about the emergency response to the bombings, not about reviewing emergency response a la Hurricane Katrina, as he actually answered.

"I'm going to be speaking in sound bites soon enough," Obama assures.

Best. Reporting. Ever.
"Today, a dump truck rolled over and all the dirt came out. The truck rolled onto more dirt. It was hard to tell all the dirt apart. There were no injuries."

No longer available online here. But it was there yesterday, and it was priceless.

- Bethany Lankin

Big Bad Jim Thompson
"Testifying at the fraud trial of Conrad Black, former Gov. James R. Thompson said Tuesday that as audit committee chairman for Hollinger International, he wasn't told about more than $31 million in payments to Black, other company executives and a Canadian company Black controlled," the Sun-Times reports. "Thompson is the third former member of the media company's audit committee to say he was kept in the dark about non-competes paid to Black and others."

It's hard to tell if Thompson and his pals really didn't know about the payments or really didn't want to know about the payments. Either way, Thompson & Co. are guilty of gross negligence, don't you think?

"Thompson did approve $26.4 million in non-compete payments to Black, [David] Radler and others in 2000 in relation to the sale of Hollinger's Canadian papers," the Sun-Times account says.

"Thompson said that when the issue first came up, he told Radler that he head never heard of executives being paid personally to sign agreements not to compete with the buyer. Thompson asked for industry precedent.

"But Radler never gave Thompson the 'comparables' he sought. Instead, the committee was told that the Canadian payments were much smaller as a percentage of the sale than non-competes paid in U.S. Holinger sales.

"Given that fact, Thompson thought the non-competes in the Canadian deal were "reasonable."

Wow. That was easy.

If that account is true, Thompson had no business being on anybody's audit committee.

"In 2002 and 2003, Thompson said he signed financial disclosure statements that said individual directors had approved of $15.6 million in non-compete payments to Hollinger executives from U.S. sales.

"Why did you sign the document if it's not true?" prosecutor Eric Sussman asked Thompson.

"'Because I didn't see the paragraph,' Thompson said, noting that he had 'skimmed' the documents."


He was not using the word "skimmed" ironically, by the way.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Be reasonable.


Posted on May 2, 2007

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