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Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?

By Kevin Robinson in News on May 18, 2007 1:00PM

2007_5_broke%21.jpgMayor Daley left Chicago for a sojourn downstate Wednesday, hosting his annual mini Taste of Chicago for lawmakers, and hitting them and the Guv up for more cash for schools and the CTA. Coming out of those meetings, several new developments have emerged. New CTA chief Ron Huberman indicated that the old "doomsday" option is on the table, (among others), which would include cutting service and raising fares. Huberman has already outlined $12.5 million in cuts to the beleaguered transit system, and other options that he says are under consideration include $3.8 million from jobs and $7 million in “non-critical” overtime, no small amounts. But that $12.5 million represents only about 10% of the cash that the agency needs to cover its operating costs for the year, not to mention the $5.8 million billion it needs in capital improvements, including new buses and "L" cars.

Coming out of meetings on Wednesday, it seems that Daley got at least some of what he wants; according to CBS 2 Daley signed off on a tentative deal that would bring a casino to downtown Chicago, with 5,000 positions for slot machines, card and dice games, and roulette — and City Hall taking as much as 20 percent of the anticipated $1 billion plus annual gross. It isn't clear if any of that money would be used to fund the CTA, and even if it were, it wouldn't solve the immediate problems the transit agency is facing. Other options for fully funding the CTA include diverting revenue from capital funds to cover operating costs.

While there are no easy answers to what two transit experts have suggested could be a transit crisis this summer, we're hopeful that contentious and feuding Democrats downstate will reconcile their differences, that Blago will get his head out of his ass on the state's budget, and more funding for transit will come through. But the onus for change doesn't just fall on state politicians; Daley and his management team must come through as well. People at City Hall tell Chicagoist that they like Ron Huberman, that he's a guy who can get things done. But the fact of the matter is that at least part of the blame for these problems lies with the city, and that years of mismanagement of the transit system have finally added up. We've been watching Chicago politics long enough to be cynical and think that this is just how it is. Look at the politics of other cities of similar size, and you quickly realize that the amount of bullshit that goes on here isn't normal. Now our mayor is downstate begging the legislature and the governor for enough money to run the schools and the CTA!? We hope that our state government doesn't let us down this time, that Ron Huberman really can come through, that Daley is serious about fixing the transit situation here in the city, and that we don't have to wait for 2016 to get a CTA that actually works for the rest of us.