Chicago Mayor Johnson RTA board nominee coming under fire for lack of transit knowledge

'As a man, I don't have to use the CTA. I'm fortunate to have a car,' Rev. Ira Acree said

Thursday, May 9, 2024
RTA board nominee coming under fire for lack of transit knowledge
Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson's pick to serve on the RTA board, Rev. Ira Acree, is coming under fire for a lack of transit knowledge.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Mayor Brandon Johnson's pick to serve on the board of the Regional Transportation Authority is coming under fire.

He's tapped a well-known West Side pastor for the job.

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But some Chicago aldermen argue that he's not ready to get behind the wheel, especially after some comments that's he's made about riding the CTA.

The Rev. Ira Acree is a longtime well-known pastor and community organizer on the West Side.

He hopes to take on an additional role as a board member for the Regional Transportation Authority, the governing body that oversees CTA, Metra and Pace. Acree was nominated by Mayor Johnson.

"With Rev. Acree being a member of this community, we definitely support him because he knows the challenges that people and communities face. It doesn't have to be a transit expert," 28th Ward Ald. Jason Ervin said.

As members of City Council's transportation committee learned Wednesday, Acree is far from a transit expert. While he grew up using public transportation, Acree told the committee, as an adult, he occasionally uses it downtown.

"As a man, I don't have to use the CTA. I'm fortunate to have a car," Acree said.

While transportation is facing a crisis, Acree said he needs more information to make any judgments about CTA Chief Dorval Carter or an effort in Springfield to consolidate the RTA, CTA and Pace.

SEE ALSO: Illinois lawmakers unveil plan to combine Metra, CTA and Pace into one

"You actually have to have knowledge about what's happening to the whole RTA system, and to not have any answers at all was a little bit offensive," 32nd Ward Ald. Scott Waguespack said.

In addition, Waguespack was disappointed Acree was unaware of an RTA $730 million shortfall.

"This is the first time hearing of a 730 shortfall; I wouldn't want to respond without doing research," Acree said.

Before appearing before the committee, Acree admitted he never spoke with the mayor about the administration's transportation vision.

"I think a mayor and administration need to be reaching out, and the fact that they haven't says a lot about things," 40th Ward Ald. Andre Vasquez said.

"We have hundreds of people in this city, thousands regionally, who could take on this job and have the knowledge on day one walking into it. And I think that's where the mayor's office failed," Waguespack said.

Waguespack and Vasquez were the only two committee members to vote against Acree's appointment. Others say serving on the RTA board doesn't require expertise.

"You can purchase expertise, but you can't purchase that people have known understanding of the community on the South and West sides," Ervin said.

Acree said he is not making himself available for interviews until his appointment is confirmed by the full City Council.

With the exception of a few aldermen, Acree's nomination is expected to pass.