Thursday, July 06, 2006


The Cook County Board Presidency

Up for grabs?

The deal to replace John Stroger as Cook County Board President is in trouble, though for the wrong reasons:
Just when the pieces appeared to be falling into place to allow for a smooth transition from John Stroger's reign as Cook County Board president, it has become a free-for-all.

Wednesday morning, Ald. Todd Stroger (8th) refused to say whether he has the votes among committeemen to replace his father as the Democratic nominee in the November election.

Wednesday afternoon, Commissioner John Daley said he no longer wants to be considered to serve the final five months of John Stroger's term.

As recently as last week, both moves were said to be a lock. Now, leadership of the $3 billion government appears to be in limbo.

But some say it's paving the way for a power grab by Commissioner Bobbie Steele, who will get a huge boost for the interim spot in a rally this morning from the Rev. Jesse Jackson, U.S. Representatives Jesse Jackson Jr. and Danny Davis, and several state and local officials.

In making his surprise announcement Wednesday, Daley, without naming names, said "influences outside the board room and [Democratic] central committee" were making race an issue, and "no one wins with that."

He also feared his decisions as interim president would be second-guessed as possibly coming from his brother Mayor Daley.
John Kass comments:
Because while (Republican candidate Tony) Peraica campaigns for the board presidency, Cook County Board President John Stroger remains incapacitated by a stroke. White Democratic Party bosses are now bent on giving Stroger's spot on the ballot to Stroger's son, the pliant Ald. Todd Stroger (8th).

It is a display of power as raw as meat, or if you prefer, oysters. The white guys who run things require an African-American on the county ticket, in a contested campaign, to bring out the African-American vote in November. Without a reliable black vote, many white regulars would have to get real jobs. And one time-honored way to bring out that vote is to play the race card.

Amazingly, the Daleys of Chicago insist they aren't involved in the Stroger affair. Cook County Commissioner John Daley told the Tribune's Mickey Ciokajlo on Wednesday that he won't seek the interim County Board presidency while John Stroger is incapacitated.

John Daley said, "I'm concerned. It's become very racial. ... I don't want to divide this county." Asked if he was afraid of black politicians who already have injected race into the campaign, Daley said, "I'm not afraid of anyone. It's just a decision I made."

He's telling the truth. He's not afraid of anyone. His brother is Mayor Richard M. Daley. The only thing that might bother them is a federal subpoena. The mayor also said he wasn't going to be involved in the Todd Stroger ascendancy, either.

"I'm just staying out of it," the mayor said. "That is up to them. It's not my responsibility."
The Sun-Times editorializes:
Maybe it's time for someone in authority -- Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan or U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, perhaps? -- to find the will and a way to delve into the last four months of county follies.

Stroger supposedly announced his retirement in an unsigned letter Friday, a few days after the deadline for filing an independent bid for the position. We say supposedly because Stroger hasn't been seen or heard from since his stroke in March, the signed letter of resignation wasn't released until Wednesday, and the signature was illegible.

Up until the deadline for third-party candidates passed, Stroger's handlers, including his son Todd, the 8th Ward alderman, and Ald. William Beavers (7th), the family spokesman, insisted that the president's condition was improving and that he was expected to return. It was only after the deadline passed that Stroger's aides announced his retirement for health reasons -- doing it with the unsigned, typed letter late Friday after inexplicably canceling an earlier news conference.
From the Sun-Times, this graphic compares Stroger's signature before his stroke and that on the letter:

The Chicago Tribune poses five questions that candidates for the County Board Presidency should address:
- As you watch federal prosecutors pursue hiring scandals at Chicago's City Hall and in state government, how will you reform a blatant patronage process that has burdened Cook County with thousands of political hacks?

- Do you support a broad package of ethics reforms, with a truly independent inspector general? Or should Cook County leave its slipshod ethics as they are until the federal courts parlay county corruption cases into strict reforms?

- Year after year, County Board members nod in belief like bobblehead dolls at phony reassurances from Bureau of Health officials that they've almost solved their revenue problems. (Pssst: Their financial operation is a complete disaster; better you should wait for the Great Pumpkin to fix it than fall for even one more of their bogus promises.) So: Will you overhaul a county health operation constructed to provide sweetheart jobs and contracts, but not to provide the best possible patient care?

- How will you streamline an obsolete and often redundant government that employs way too many people? What offices will you consolidate or wholly eliminate?

- Will you overhaul the county's juvenile detention center, a shameful warehouse for children that has been studied ad nauseam by grown-ups lucky enough to sleep in safe homes?
Too bad these issues won't be the focus of the campaign.


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