The CTA's New Chairman an Old Crony

Daley insider gets post

By Steve Rhodes
|  Wednesday, Sep 30, 2009  |  Updated 2:14 PM CDT
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The new CTA chief knows how to get things done.

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The next head chairman of the CTA board will reportedly be Terry Peterson, a former alderman who headed the CHA until he quit to run Mayor Daley's last re-election campaign.

That's about right.

Peterson, after all, was the head of the CHA when - just by coincidence - his pals in the 17th Ward, where he had been alderman and committeeman, started getting contributions from businesses with CHA contracts, the Better Government Association found in a joint investigation with the Residents' Journal.

The 17th Ward folks must have been scratching their heads because there are no public housing developments in their ward. Apparently businesses with CHA contracts just wanted to make the ward's political apparatus happy out of the goodness of their hearts.

Surely they weren't thinking they could curry favor with Peterson that way. I mean, what would give them that idea?

“We’re very concerned about the stunning explosion of campaign contributions by CHA contractors to the 17th Ward and political figures from there that seemingly coincides with Terry Peterson’s elevation as head of the CHA, the very body that hands out the contracts,” then-BGA Executive Director Jay Stewart said at the time.

The 17th Ward Democratic Organization had been dormant since 1996. It was restarted in 2001. Daley appointed Peterson head of the CHA in 2000. Oh, what fun! 

In 2005, the Sun-Times reported that an Atlanta-based firm that managed CHA properties gave 68 percent of its Illinois political donations, totalling $13,000, to the 17th Ward Democrats. The biggest of these contributions occurred - coincidentally, of course - just four months before the company won an $8 million contract.

In fact, a Virginia-based property management company claimed coincidence when it was discovered that the only political group in all of Illinois it contributed to was the mighty 17th Ward Democrats.

Peterson tells the Sun-Times that he'll bring to his new job the same consensus-building skills he used on the CTA's $1.6 billion Plan for Transformation.

Is that a promise or a threat?

It's a miracle Peterson didn't end up in the White House given his resume and closeness to Daley.

Instead, he was biding his time as a lobbyist for Rush University Medical Center until July, when he cancelled his registration for that apparently in anticipation of going back into city government.

Wouldn't want an appearance of impropriety, you know.

Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review.

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