Blago Blinks or CTA Shrinks, But Method Stinks

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(Photo: Which one would you let stay the night?)

So are we all supposed to get on our knees and thank Governor Blagojevich for riding in and potentially saving us innocent Chicagoans from the “CTA Doomsday” at the last minute (see Chicago Tribune, CBS2)? I’m sorry, of all the political brinksmanship that has been played with the potential of millions of Chicagoans and Chicagolanders to simply be able to make it to work next Monday, pardon me if I refrain from dancing a jig over short-term aid.

Just as easily as small-minded Oswego representative Tom Cross could have taken his heavy-handed fist off of this summer’s critically important transit-funding bill, Blago could have gotten off of his own particular high horse (rejiggering business taxes? perhaps dead horse might be a better term) weeks ago and saved many people a lot of grief.

You really can’t blame Tom Cross for his lack of thinking big. The man represents Oswego. According to the town website, the biggest thing to happen there all summer was the opening of a Wal-Mart. But our Chicago-living governor? The man who refuses to be domiciled in Springfield due to his alleged love of the City of Chicago? If this is Rod’s idea of love, I’d much prefer a quickie.

Asinine Illinois politicians and their me-first methods, log-rolling like lumber is going out of style, are no surprise on the western shore of Lake Michigan. But come on. How many false starts have Second Citizens had to suffer through in the past few months as statehouse shenanigans drew closer and closer the beginning of the end for the nation’s second-largest transit system (and, by extension, the end of any hope of hosting a Midwestern Olympics)? We had the promise, then death of an amazingly forward-thinking transit bill, the promise, then death of timely Senate support, a bone-headed ex-urban Republican forgetting that as Chicago rises and falls so does Oswego. And now, we have an urban Democrat trying to curry political favor out of the psychological and emotional torture he himself helped inflict on an entire region of transit riders.

Not to mention an entire region of voters.

So maybe we all wake up next week with 40 more bus routes than we heretofore anticipated having, and a peak ‘L’ fare pegged at somewhat less than three dollars. That’s as it should be. Modern-day Chicago is a city born out of and developed by it’s amazing, comprehensive transit system. It’s also one of the few major cities in America where we don’t attach a stigma to riding that system (whether ‘L’, bus, or commuter rail).

That’s because rank-and-file Chicagoans aren’t stupid. We know how convenient (even if occasionally punishingly dirty) a transit trip can be in this region. We especially think this while we’re, say, rolling down the median of the Kennedy in the morning rush, watching bumper-to-bumper automobile traffic sit listlessly frozen directly adjacent to our happy rail right-of-way.

Blago’s not stupid, either. He lives here; he gets transit’s importance perhaps like no other Illinois governor before. And he knows a bit more, too. He also knows about rising and falling. He knows that Chicago’s economy rises and falls on the back of its transportation system. He knows that Illinois rises and falls on the back of Chicago. And he knows very well that any chance for a Midwestern Olympics rises and falls on the ability of international visitors to hop from venue to venue without needing to hail a cab.

So please forgive me if I don’t stand up and cheer because our governor is doing:

a.) What he has absolutely no choice but to do; and

b.) What he should have and could have done weeks ago (if not months ago).

If time runs out for the CTA, time runs out for Chicago, and the Olympics, and lots and lots of juicy commercial- and sales-tax dollars for both city and state. So forgive me if I’m less than impressed because Blago finally realizes that he’s backed this city, this state, and himself so far into a corner that he has to (horrors!) take action. Pardon me if I don’t get out the disco ball and send out invitations because the governor, at long last, is actually doing his job.

Watching someone cover their ass so rarely necessitates a party.

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