Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Mayor Brushes Off Defeat in Battle Over Sports Authority

Kelly Kraft earned ISFA board approval last week

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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Monday reiterated his belief that Kelly Kraft wasn't the most ideal choice to lead the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority but says Gov. Pat Quinn "did what he thought was appropriate."

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Kelly Kraft on New Role as ISFA Chief

The board of the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority on Thursday approved Gov. Pat Quinn's nomination of former TV reporter and spokeswoman Kelly Kraft as its new CEO. Mary Ann Ahern spoke with her one-on-one after the vote.

Quinn Defends Kelly Kraft

Gov. Pat Quinn says his choice to lead the Illinois Sports Franchise Authority is a strong woman who will keep taxpayers in mind, and he accused Mayor Rahm Emanuel's staffers of waging a character assassination against Kelly Kraft.
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Mayor Rahm Emanuel may not have gotten his pick to lead the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority but brushed off a notion the governor's choice would strain their working relationship.

"Chicago is the economic engine of the state. I know that, the governor knows that," Emanuel said Monday after a press conference to announce a tentative agreement with a dozen Chicago Transit Authority labor unions.

Quinn last week succeeded in his bid for Kelly Kraft to lead the ISFA, after the board voted Thursday to appoint her to the executive director position. The organization operates U.S. Cellular Field.

Emanuel didn't think Kraft was a right fit for the job and early last month pointed to her 2009 bankruptcy in questioning her financial expertise. He said he feared Chicago taxpayers would be on the hook if the ISFA gets into any bad deals.

"I have a disagreement there because the taxpayers of Chicago are on the line if, God forbid, something bad happens at the sports authority," said Emanuel.

The mayor wanted Diana Ferguson to get the job. In previous roles, Ferguson has been the Chief Financial Officer for Sara Lee, The Folgers Coffee company and Chicago Public Schools. She's currently a nominee for the board to oversee the mayor's Infrastructure Trust.

"The governor made a different decision," said Emanuel.

Quinn was a fierce advocate for Kraft, his assistant budget director, and accused Emanuel staffers of needlessly assassinating her character.

"This is a strong woman who knows how to get things done for the public, who understands what sunshine is all about to make sure that there's transparency in government and openness, to make sure there's economy and efficiency, and running her down by anybody is just plain wrong," the governor said early last month.

Quinn claimed the mayor and his staffers were working on a "backroom deal" to renovate Wrigley Field and use the Sports Facilities Authority to help the Cubs, a charge the mayor has denied.

Kraft last week said she was excited to begin looking at "creative strategies" that would get more people out to U.S. Cellular Field.

"We can do a lot more with the stadium to generate more money for the state," she said after earning the ISFA board's approval.

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