Dear Member of the International Olympic Committee:
Today the Chicago Transit Authority lost its two top leaders who are leaving our mass transit system system in a financial mess. "It's a huge loss" said one CTA official.
The CTA, like all other agencies of the city, are experiencing major revenue short falls and service disruptions.
CTA Board loses top two; chairwoman, vice-chair quit
FRAN SPIELMAN AND MARY WISNIEWSKI - September 22, 2009
Board Chairwoman Carole Brown and her co-hort, Vice Chair Susan Leonis,
resigned today, creating a leadership vacuum at the
chronically-troubled mass transit agency.
resignations leave former Aviation Commissioner Richard Rodriguez -
newly-appointed CTA president with no mass transit experience - to face
the financial crisis without the CTA board's most savvy members.
The CTA closed a $190 million budget gap without raising fares or
reducing service, only after shifting capital funds to operations and
ordering, yet another painful round of budget cuts. The outlook for
next year is worse.
Brown, 45, is a former senior vice-president for now-defunct Lehman
Brothers who used the municipal finance expertise she gained at Harvard
and Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management to put
together the bond deal that helped the CTA solve its pension crisis.
She was appointed by Mayor Daley in September, 2003, and re-appointed
to a term that expires in 2013. Leonis, a close friend of first lady
Maggie Daley, was appointed to the CTA board by Gov. Edgar in 1996.
"It's a huge loss," one CTA official said of Brown's departure. "She
knows finance. She helped get the legislation through Springfield that
shored up our finances and pensions. That's her strength and that's
what we're losing."
Sources said the demise of Lehman Brothers played a role in Brown's exit.
After a brief stint at Mesirow Financial, Brown landed at Siebert
Brandford Shank LLC, a municipal finance firm that demands more of her
"Ever since she started, the CTA has had one crisis after another.
There's no money. It took years to a get a bail-out through
Springfield. She spends a lot of time at the CTA," said a source
familiar with the explanation Brown gave to Daley Tuesday.
"Lehman Brothers was a huge multi-national firm with tens of thousands
of employees. This is a much smaller firm. She just doesn't have that
kind of time anymore."
Brown could not be reached for comment.
In 2005, while dealing with a $55 million budget gap, she started her
own blog to debunk what she called myths and misinformation about the
"I am not the angel of death," she said at the time.
In early 2008, a "doomsday" of higher fares and drastically reduced
service was averted by increases in the sales tax and real estate
But both tax sources have suffered from the bad economy, leading to more losses this year.
Brown has always been publicly outspoken in her role as chair. Often,
she has more to say to the media after board hearings than the CTA
Last month, Brown expressed her frustration with the frequent budget
cutting in a complaint against an RTA proposal to take CTA and Metra
capital money to help patch a hole in Pace's paratransit budget. She
noted that the CTA was able to cover paratransit needs when it ran the
van system for the disabled.
Leonis said she was meeting Brown for champagne Tuesday afternoon. "We're really good friends," Leonis said.
Leonis said she's leaving after 15 years because it's time for a change.
"It's time to do something different," Leonis said. "I'm just tired."
Asked if the recent budget problems helped prompt her decision, Leonis
laughed, saying there are frequently budget problems at the CTA.
"I can't say these are any different than we've had for a long time," Leonis said.
She said she was glad she had the opportunity to serve.