Chicago Sun Times City Hall reporter Fran Spielman reported exclusively that Mayor Rahm Emanuel will name Forrest Claypool as his next chief-of-staff today. For Claypool this will be an unprecedented third stint as chief of staff, having served two separate stints for former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.
Spielman wrote that Emanuel “needs a trusted hand to help solve the city’s $20 billion pension crisis more than he needs continuity of leadership at the CTA.” Claypool is currently the President of the Chicago Transit Authority, however, a replacement for Claypool at the CTA has not yet been announced.
Claypool will replace Lisa Schrader, said NBC5 News, who is leaving the Emanuel Administration after two years in her post and nearly 14 years with the City of Chicago.
“I’ve known Forrest Claypool for 35 years. He has an unparalleled record of reform, accountability, and leadership in city and county government,” Mayor Emanuel said. “That’s why one of the first calls I made during my transition in 2011 was to Forrest to ask him to lead the CTA. He is a world-class manager, and under him, the CTA has never been run better.”
Mayor Emanuel cited the 95th Street Red Line South Reconstruction Project as an example of Mr. Claypool’s management and vision, in which a short-term inconvenience was chosen over a longer, dragged out construction period. For that decision, Emanuel and Claypool have received universal acclaim.
“We did four years of work in just five months and it is the longest stretch of track that has ever been shut down and rebuilt from the dirt up at one time,” Mayor Emanuel said. “That accomplishment shows a rare ability which Forrest has to be laser-focused on the six inches ahead of him, while still having the strategic vision to look miles down the road. That vision and focus is what I need as we prepare to tackle the biggest fiscal crisis in Chicago history.”
However, the challenged facing Emanuel, and now Claypool are numerous. A possible property tax increase to fill a “$300 million operating shortfall” at the Chicago Public Schools. Then there is the $30 billion pension crisis at the city, followed by a drop in the city’s bond ratings, dropping Chicago to two levels above junk status. By December, the city must decide how to meet a state-mandated, $550 million payment to shore up police and fire pension funds and negotiate cost-saving reforms with police and fire unions.
Then there is naming a new Chicago Public School CEO to replace Barbara Byrd-Bennett, who took a leave of absence last week pending the outcome of a federal investigation into a $20.5 million no-bid principal training contract with a company that once employed her. The negotiations with the Chicago Teachers Union and there is a $1.1 billion budget shortfall driven largely by pension payments.
Mr. Claypool served as superintendent of the Chicago Park District during the 1990s where he notably reduced costs and spending, while expanding programs for families. He will assume his new role after inauguration. His replacement at the CTA will be named in the coming weeks.