After sleeping on the story about Jeff Ladd’s pending retirement below, I came to the conclusion that it was too negative. (Photo is of Ladd and McHenry County Board Chairman Ken Koehler.)
That’s probably based on his 1970 political opposition to my family’s goal of locating McHenry County College in Crystal Lake when his family was trying to put it on their land behind McHenry West High School, plus his support of the 1974 RTA.
I imagine that the political broadside that I developed with the cover blast
The Ladd Sight Is a Bad Sitedidn’t help the relationship. (The referendum failed by 80%-20%.)
Vote No December 5th
Both of us then, and in the RTA fight, were probably representing our own self-interests.
With regard to RTA, Ladd had, by 1974, left the family home construction firm, where he was treasurer, and become a railroad commuter for law school and his subsequent job.
I got to work by car and could not see the justification for car drivers being forced to subsidize the train commuters from McHenry County, who, at that time, earned about twice the income of the average McHenry County resident.
(You can see how deeply the RTA fight affected me from the above paragraph. I can still call up the arguments and facts I used back then.)
The basic philosophy of the RTA re-structuring, which House Speaker George Ryan and Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne agreed to in the early 1980's:
de-centralization was good.Chicago would get to run the Chicago Transportation Authority--which, of course, it already did--while suburban interests would have control of suburban trains and buses, along with their political patronage.
Selecting Ladd as head of the train division, now call Metra, placed a strong leader in charge of a vital suburban interest.
As an example of the tremendous pressure that Ladd put on Metra’s staff to accomplish the goals he set for the agency, read what WBBM’s Bob Roberts reported Saturday:
Ladd fumed over delays for two consecutive rush hours to riders on Metra's BNSF commuter line, pronouncing the three-hour delays endured by some to be "unacceptable."And, Roberts continued,
He defended his territory vigorously, and that meant butting heads often, especially in recent years, with leaders of the Chicago area's other transit agencies.And, beyond.
When Governor Rod Blagojevich wanted to re-centralize the region’s mass transit agencies and put them all under firm Democratic Party control, Ladd led the successful opposition.
For that, Ladd certainly deserves high praise.
Ladd was criticized for ignoring the South Suburbs.
Ladd’s comment in the WBBM piece:
They shouldn't (feel slighted). They have more service than anybody on the entire system,brought back one of the anomalies I found in 1974.
While McHenry County’s trains ran only once an hour during non-peak times, the South Shore ran every half an hour.
How unfair was and is that?
Here’s how Ladd summed up his service to the Chicago region to WBBM:
The operations were such when we came into being that I don't leave with anything but a sense of satisfaction and pride in what we have accomplished. We built the finest commuter rail operation in the country.I see no reason to argue with that conclusion.
There certainly were tons of deferred maintenance and need for new equipment, the money for which Ladd pried out of Springfield and Washington…not always from sources for which I would approve, but he did get the job done.
(One of the reasons Senator Dick Klemm voted for George Ryan’s Illinois FIRST was that money from it would go to rehabilitation the railroad bridge over the Fox River. Jack Franks and I voted against Illinois FIRST, on the other hand, I because it stiffed Chicago area highways. Note well that 8 years later we still don’t have 4 lanes on
· Route 47 through Huntley,From a more parochial viewpoint, Ladd had long desired a new McHenry County train station. His favored location was Ridgefield, nearer his almost Bull Valley home than the Downtown Crystal Lake station. Instead, we now have the station on Pingree Road, built to European standards. In other words, it allows people to get from one side of the track to the other without actually crossing the tracks, as is the typical situation at Chicagoland stations.
· Algonquin Road from Randall Road to Route 47 or
· 31 north from Crystal Lake to McHenry. )
All in all, a job well done.
For my more critical first take on Ladd's retirement, click McHenry County Blog.