Let’s hope Forrest Claypool has gotten over his political ambitions. He’s not going to win any votes by running the nearly-broke Chicago Transit Authority.
Claypool’s tenure at the Chicago Park District, where he eliminated 20 percent of the workforce, earned him a reputation as an “independent reformer” among journalists and good-government liberals. Among minorities, it earned him a reputation as the guy who eliminated summer programs in the parks, and the employment that went with them.
That’s why Claypool lost two countywide elections to terrible politicians. In the 2006 primary for Cook County Board president, Claypool lost to John Stroger, who was half dead, and destined to be succeeded by his incompetent dauphin, Todd. In last year’s Cook County Assessor’s race, Claypool was defeated by Joe Berrios, the party boss who took campaign contributions from lawyers who did business before his Board of Review.
In his run for assessor, Claypool did well in white wards, but got less than 10 percent of the vote in most black wards.
The CTA, you may have noticed, has an overwhelmingly African-American workforce. Sixty-five percent of transit workers are black. If Claypool cuts jobs, he’ll be cutting black jobs. Well-paying, middle-class jobs that support homeowners in Chatham and Austin.
The union is already preparing for a fight, according to the Sun-Times:
Robert Kelly, president of Amalgamated Transit Workers Union Local 308 representing rail workers, acknowledged that Claypool has a “reputation and a history of slashing jobs.’’ But Kelly said Claypool will have a tough time doing the same at the CTA.
“You might be able to do it with management, but not with labor. We’re already at a skeleton crew,’’ Kelly said.
“If you want people waiting longer for buses and trains, then go ahead and cut jobs. That’s not gonna win a popularity contest. You’re looking at gasoline going to $5-a-gallon. This is a time when transit should be expanding — not cutting.”
One man’s reform is another man’s unemployment check. Once again, Claypool is getting an assignment at the mayor’s hatchet man. It’s what he does best, and it’s why he’s failed in politics.
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