Tuesday, March 4, 2008

I Love Chicago, But I Hate the Cook County Board

UPDATE: 4/22/2008: Found in today's news, a feature article on Todd Stroger's and the Cook County Board's ongoing shenanigans. I still hate the Cook County Board, but I love being ahead of the curve.


This is Todd Stroger, President of the Cook County Board in Illinois. Todd was elected president in 2006 after his father -- president of the board for 12 years prior -- suffered a stroke and much funny business resulted.

He's since been a very unpopular figure in Chicago and Cook County. And yet, that didn't stop him from enacting a 1% sales tax hike in Cook County. (He originally wanted 2%.) The tax hike will raise an additional $400 million dollars annually, which will cover an estimated $280 million shortfall and then some. Included with the tax increase is over 1000 new county jobs.

When the tax takes effect in November of this year, Chicago will have the highest sales tax in the nation -- 10.25%.

This is Larry Suffredin, commissioner for the 13th District in Chicago. Larry is the commissioner for my district, and he provided the swing vote that passed Stroger's budget and tax increase. When he last ran for election, Larry promised to be a "reformer" who would stand up to the waste and unnecessary taxation going on in the county.

Suffredin caved to avoid what he called a "total shut down of all services of the County government – including hospitals, courts and the county jail – which would have adversely affected all citizens, especially the most vulnerable." What he didn't mention is that those services would have remained open and operable, with all employees paid, due to court action requiring it. No "shut down" was imminent. Nice work, Larry.

Today, a report was released about patronage hiring in Cook County. Julia Nowicki, the report's author, was appointed to review the Board's hiring practices after the FBI descended on their offices to investigate violations of the Shakman Decree -- a 1994 consent judgment that bans political considerations from most of the county's 23,000 jobs.

Nowicki's report -- the third she has filed since being appointed in 2006 -- finds "there is no information or event that has been presented... that would indicate that illegal political patronage has been eliminated." In other words, the idiot cousins and friends of Stroger and other Cook County officials are still being rewarded with high-paying, do-nothing jobs.

(As an interesting aside, I called John Stroger's office today to file a complaint, and was transferred three times. They finally connected me to the office of Mike Quigley -- a commissioner who voted against the tax increase.)

Here in Chicago, it seems we occasionally take a perverse pride in the wink-wink way things get done, but enough is enough. Cook County has now officially become Crook County.

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