Thursday, June 29, 2006

 

One Party Rule in Cook County

The ward bosses decide

Cook County Board President John Stroger had a severe stroke in March and hasn't been seen in public since. He is obviously incapacitated. Exactly who is running County government at the moment is anybody's guess as politicians have refused to allow the appointment of a temporary replacement. After months of political machinations, a Sun-Times editorial explains what the local Democratic Party has decided to do:
We have to admit we are not aware of widespread anger over the utter disregard the John Stroger camp has shown the voting public since the Cook County Board president was sidelined by a stroke in March. But we hope people are finally getting mad as heck over the concerted efforts to keep Stroger's health a secret, to resist interim measures that would actually put someone in charge of county government and to pass on the presidency as a hereditary title.

Just when you thought the story couldn't get any more troubling or embarrassing, we were apprised Tuesday of a multi-pronged plan to install Stroger's son, Ald. Todd Stroger (8th) as his successor and reward Ald. William Beavers (7th) and his family. Give Stroger's family and political allies credit for punctuality: Having promised they would make an announcement in July about John Stroger's future plans, they beat that deadline with four days to spare. But here's the outrageously self-serving scheme they cooked up:

John Stroger, who hasn't been seen in public or heard from since his stroke, will remain in office until the election but drop out of the race, to be replaced on the ticket by his son, contingent on approval of the ward bosses. Beavers, chairman of the City Council's Budget Committee, would replace John Stroger in the separate post of county commissioner -- and resign as alderman on condition that Mayor Daley appoint Beavers' daughter (and chief of staff), Darcel, to replace him.

So the plan is for Todd Stroger, who has accomplished next to nothing as alderman, being schooled by Beavers in overseeing one of the largest governmental bodies in the country, with a $3 billion budget. Beavers, who is 71 and doesn't want to be board president, would be eased into a cushy retirement, and his unproven daughter would be installed in a ward with serious gang and economic troubles.
Notice its the Democratic ward committeeman, not members of the county board, which has a Democratic majority, who will actually decide the matter. And the consensus among the ward bosses appears to be that they'd best defer to the black political establishment:
Most white committeemen agree that a Stroger replacement on the ballot should be an African-American, but they want to make sure there is a consensus choice that emerges from the black committeemen before they endorse the program, said a leading white Democrat.

Committing too early, the Democrat said, could mean supporting a losing contender, which could backfire politically when seeking future help.
Ald Beavers defends this:
Beavers cited past precedent for John Stroger to pick his son, saying Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and former Cook County Assessor Thomas Hynes aided their children's political careers.

"It's not right when black folks do it but when white folks do it, it's all right," Beavers said. "Hynes, Madigan ... all the rest of them did it. Why can't we do it? That shows unity among black folks which white folks don't like."
The Sun-Times notes the lack of outrage about all of this and hopes that voters will remember these shenanigans when they go to the polls in November. Even if they do, history suggests it won't make any difference.

UPDATE: The Sun-Times reports the Daley family has cut itself in on the action:
Under fire for the leadership vacuum in Cook County government, stroke-stricken John Stroger has decided to resign as county board president on June 31 rather than serve until the end of the year -- paving the way for Mayor Daley's brother to become Stroger's interim replacement.
So the main beneficiaries of this deal are President Stroger's son, Ald Beaver's daughter and Mayor Daley's brother. Nepotism, Chicago style.

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