2007/03/09

Public transit not part of the lifestyle of public transit board

I don't ride the CTA much, since my commute to school is only about a mile and I normally bike or walk. Even so, I'm on a pace to take around 150 trips on the CTA this year. A regular commuter, of course, would take around 500 trips a year plus any weekend trips.

Compare that with this:
[CTA] board member Henry Chandler Jr., who gets around in a wheelchair, rode on CTA buses and trains 129 times in 2006--more than all the other board members combined, according to the ridership summary, which was provided to the Tribune.

"I think it is helpful if board members have an experience with the system. But every individual is different, and sometimes lifestyle doesn't fit into it," said CTA chairwoman Carole Brown, who rode the CTA 53 times in 2006 using her agency photo ID badge.
Okay, if they want to live in the suburbs and foul our air by driving 3-4 hours in traffic every day, fine. But in that case, providing oversight on a key urban service that they don't bother to use should not be part of their lifestyle.

Hardly surprising tho. It's always corporate executives and lawyers and other rich people who staff "public interest" boards like this or any other "civic" organization - the Olympics bid, for example. In many ways urban elites are basically the same as they were 150 years ago - a small group of "community figures" who not only control all the businesses but generously contribute their free time to running the bodies that make the decisions about urban planning and development, disbursement of grants, running of universities, museums, &c. In other words, the operational leaders of pretty much all the public and private organizations that control our lives are the same people that sit on all the boards overseeing those organizations. Since these are the people running our cities, and since the people in Congress are all bought and paid for by these same people, it starts to look like a mass delusion that Americans talk about democracy in this country.

2 comments:

Eric said...

I'll grant you that it's pretty disgusting that the CTA board doesn't take the CTA. However, it's grossly unfair to generalize to all boards providing public benefits, from a board that is so nakedly political. The boards of most nonprofits are significantly NOT meddlesome in operational matters, and are responsible for personally raising a large proportion of the resources that the organizations depend on in order to survive.

Jake said...

you're right, and in fact most boards - nonprofit or for-profit - don't have much of a role in decisionmaking. but the leaders of these organizations - the people who do make the decisions - are not elected and are unaccountable to both the community and to their employees. and these same people, serving on corporate and nonprofit boards, are the only ones providing any oversight on the actions of other elites. this is democracy? we should be asking ourselves: should our society decide which projects to fund based primarily on the preferences of rich people? should our leaders be primarily accountable to rich people? should viable electoral candidates only be those acceptable to rich people?