State Rep. Luis Arroyo says he is helping Metra, but Metra isn’t helping Latinos.
Arroyo, chairman of the House committee that wrote the $45 billion “Rebuild Illinois” state infrastructure program, appeared before Metra’s board Wednesday to take credit for helping the agency receive about $1.6 billion of that funding. He congratulated Metra for having “hit the lottery” with the legislation that Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed in June.
But the Chicago Democrat also chided Metra for a lack of Latino members on the agency’s board, calling it a “good old boys network” that needed to change. He pointedly expressed his disappointment that he didn’t see any “brown” faces before him.
“I don’t see no Latinos on this board. I don’t see no Latino women on this board,” said Arroyo, who was born in Puerto Rico, according to his bio. “With all due respect … this looks like a good old boys network to me. That needs to change.”
On Thursday, the Regional Transportation Authority announced that business executive David Andalcio, a Latino who was born in Trinidad, was named to fill a vacancy on the RTA’s board. Andalcio will represent DuPage County, replacing longtime director Patrick Durante.
The RTA oversees Metra, the CTA and Pace and worked with the transit agencies to lobby for passage of Rebuild Illinois.
“Director Andalcio’s experience in business and government and his entrepreneurial leadership will add a vital and diverse voice to the RTA Board,” RTA Chairman Kirk Dillard said in a statement. “He is an outspoken advocate for minority, disadvantaged, and women-owned business enterprises. His appointment is a great addition to the region’s transit leadership.” Dillard has not responded to a request for further comment.
Andalcio is CEO of Wynndalco Enterprises LLC and is a former appointee to the board of the Illinois Tollway. A post on Wynndalco’s website says that since emigrating from Trinidad, Andalcio “has remained loyal to his roots as an outspoken voice for Latinos in the U.S. and a deeply committed advocate for community empowerment.”
In a statement, Andalcio said: “As a longtime and active resident of DuPage County, I look forward to serving all our riders throughout the region, including those of DuPage.”
From 2013 to 2017, former federal judge Manuel Barbosa, of Mexican heritage, represented Kane County on Metra’s board. On Wednesday, a Metra spokesman said the agency had no comment on Arroyo’s statements.
Metra’s 11-member board is appointed by the six Northeastern Illinois county chairs, suburban Cook County members, and Chicago’s mayor. Currently, all are white males except for Metra’s vice chair, Romayne Brown, who is African-American. Brown was appointed by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. Another director, Cory Thames, also African-American, was appointed by former Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Arroyo cited Metra’s vigorous campaign in Springfield this spring to secure funding for the agency’s capital needs, including new locomotives and coaches, and upgrades for bridges and stations. The lawmaker said drafting Rebuild Illinois was “not easy” and cost him “a lot of nights’ sleep.”
“You need help from us in the General Assembly and you see a Latino like me in front of your board, (then) you better make sure that somebody that looks like me is on that board. Because right now, there’s nobody that looks like me on that board,” said Arroyo (pictured above).
In contrast, Arroyo said, the board of the CTA, which almost entirely serves the city, was “very diverse.” There are Latino “doctors, lawyers and engineers” living in the suburbs served by Metra, he said.
“Why am I not seeing somebody that looks like me on that board?” he asked, referring to the Metra directors in front of him. “Where’s the brown? Where’s the brown on that board? I don’t see it.”
Arroyo reiterated: “I help you, you need to help back. You need to have a diverse board.”
Metra CEO/Executive Director Jim Derwinski introduced Arroyo as a “good friend and supporter of Metra.” Derwinski remarked that a $7.3 million renovation of Metra’s Healy Station, located in Arroyo’s Northwest Side district, is almost complete.
In 2013, Arroyo appeared before Metra’s board and asked that the Healy Station be renamed for Puerto Rican baseball Hall-of-Famer Roberto Clemente. No action was taken on Arroyo’s request.
Arroyo’s daughter, Denise Arroyo-Feliciano, is a $95,600-a year program administrator in Metra’s emergency preparedness office, according to a Regional Transportation Authority database.
In 2013, former Metra CEO Alex Clifford alleged that Arroyo had asked him to hire the lawmaker’s candidate for an open deputy director position. Clifford said he refused to take the name. Arroyo denied making recommendations or pressuring Clifford. Clifford was ousted by Metra’s board after making the allegations of political pressure.
— Richard Wronski