Cronin frustrated with public transit chairman, vows to create new committee

DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin used the words "mystified," "disappointed" and "frustrated" to describe the performance of the county's Public Transit Committee and its chairman, Elizabeth Chaplin, in recent months.

And at a Sept. 10 Board meeting, he promised changes.

"Mass transit in the region have been dominating the headlines for the past summer," Cronin said, citing controversy and resignations at the Metra Board of Directors and legislation involving the Regional Transit Authority and transit service boards in Springfield.

"Clearly, much is at stake for the taxpayers and the commuters of DuPage County," he said.

Yet, Cronin said, the committee has only held three of its monthly meetings this year and has cancelled all scheduled meetings this summer.

"Frankly, I am very disappointed with the chairwoman of this committee, who has ignored an issue of such great importance to our citizens and taxpayers," he said. "And frankly, in my view, our public transport chair decided not to go to work on public transit matters 66 percent of the time."

Cronin said that, in light of the "lack of attention, lack of interest, lack of genuine involvement into these pressing issues by the transit chair," he would establish an ad-hoc committee on public transit.

Chaplin confirmed that the committee hadn't met in several weeks, but said she hadn't heard from the Chairman or any other county staff member that he was displeased.

"He never contacted me either about his concerns with Metra," she said. "So what would have been nice is, and what a leader would do, is fill his board member in and express his concerns regarding Metra to me so I could relay them to the committee. But that never took place."

Chaplin said that there was little the committee could do regarding issues out of its control, such as the resignation of multiple members of the Metra Board of Directors. Though she admitted she could have done more, she said his frustration may have also stemmed from recent proposals she and other Democrats on the Board opposed, many of which were supported by the Board's Republican majority .

Cronin said after the meeting that he would announce the members of the new ad-hoc committee in the coming days.

"I need help," he said. "I need people who are genuinely interested in transit and public transit issues here in DuPage County to invest of their time and make a commitment."

Cronin said that he had nothing personal against Chaplin or her politics and that he nominated her for the chairman position in part because she was a Democrat. But he said he "expected more" and that holding committee meetings was the "minimum requirement."

"When I first appointed Ms. Chaplin to the position, I sat down with her and said 'This is really, really important,'" he said. "We need you to go and to raise the profile of public transit and you need to go out and meet with the board members who are on these service boards. You need to hold hearings and examine what public transit needs there are in the county."

Cronin said that the county needed someone who could assert leadership "because we may lose our voice, we may be outmaneuvered by the folks in Chicago and the CTA and we have a chairman of public transit who just doesn't get it."

Cronin acknowledged that he hadn't spoken to Chaplin about his displeasure with the lack of progress from the committee.

"She's a chairman of the public transit committee. She is a duly elected county board member. She has a responsibility to the voters and taxpayers that put her in office," he said. "Is she telling me that she can't do her job without me telling her how to do it?"