CTA Prez Move May Put Brakes on Progress

A step up for Huberman could be a step backward for CTA

The city is abuzz with the news that Daley named CTA President Ron Huberman as Chicago Public Schools CEO to replace Arne Duncan, the newly-appointed U.S. education secretary. There are so many questions and yet so few answers.

First and foremost, why Huberman? No offense to our successfully-proven CTA President, but he has absolutely no background in education.

Duncan himself had actually recommended chief education officer Barbara Eason-Watkins as his successor. The two had worked together to improve test scores and fix up troubled schools. He repeated his recommendation so often to Daley that he was told to "back off."

As Fran Spielman of the Sun-Times notes though, "The Huberman appointment is vintage Daley. The mayor has long believed that 'good managers can manage anything' -- even if they don't have a clue about the agencies under their command."

And Huberman was a good manager.

"Under his management, the agency vastly improved communication with its riders through a redesign of its website and the rollout of the CTA Bus Tracker program; got its financial house in order despite an woefully outdated funding structure and a governor who guaranteed a fare increase by giving free rides to seniors; and even managed to save the Brown Line reconstruction project from becoming a complete boondoggle," writes Scott Smith of the TOC Blog.

So what happens to all that now? Rather than keep both the CPS's and the CTA's momenta going, Daley has managed to bring both to a screeching halt with this move. And it has been such a long time since either organization has seen successful progression under the demanding mayor's criticism.

Is Daley so out of touch with CTA riders? Perhaps he is not aware of just how bad a shape the CTA was in and what a breath of fresh air Huberman gave to the agency.

The CTA requires just as good of a manager as the CPS does, especially with the potential of the 2016 Olympics looming over its head.

With nothing but a huge void left in Huberman's place, it will be interesting (and devastating?) to see if anything gets done in the CTA.

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