Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Stroger Tax “roll-back” a cheap political trick by a desperate politician

It’s called the “Stroger Tax,” one of the most repressive, unfair and unjustified government taxes adopted in a long time.

Named after Cook County Board President Todd Stroger, the tax represents adding 1 percent to the sales tax in Cook County with the joney earmarked for his wasteful and corrupt government.

The tax has caused a severe backlash against Stroger, who got his job when his father, a longtime Machine patronage ward committeeman, turned the seat over to him with the blessing of Mayor Richard M. Daley, who pays more taxes to the state of Michigan on his home there than he does on the luxury South Loop townhouse he bought to escape from the Southwest Side. But that’s another story.

Suburbanites have been rallying against Stroger in droves and it is not about race, although members of his staff wish it were. It would be so much easier to snub the suburbs if they could only say it’s because Stroger is African American.

But the issue isn’t race and Stroger is in a bind. His county government is bloated with waste, choked with unjustified patronage hirings and jobs held by relatives and friends. He is surrounded by a wall of do-nothing, ineffective public relations flaks.

With Tony Rezko in the slammer ready to testify against former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Stroger doesn’t even have his strongest campaign fundraiser at his side any more. And, voters are being energized by the anticipated candidacy of Paul Vallas on the Republican ticket for Cook County Board President. Vallas has the backing of County Commission Elizabeth Doody Gorman who has helped voters stand up to the “Stroger Tax.”

The Cook County Board is a collective mostly of spineless losers who speak with loud voices and vote with glaring hypocrisy. Gorman is one of but a handful who refuses to bend to Stroger’s Machine and has stood her ground challenging the “Stroger Tax” with consistency.

So what is an ineffective, unrepresentative, isolated County Board President to do one year before he has to run for re-election?

Instead of slashing his budget, he is playing an old political game, probably suggested by one of his do-nothing consultants and advisers. He says he is going to “roll-back” a portion of the Stroger Tax by a quarter percent. He put out a press release saying he would “roll-back” the county’s oppressive sales tax from 1.75 percent to 1.5 percent.

Stroger must think we voters are stupid. He must think that we don’t see this as a purely political gimmick that he could “roll-forward” after the election if he wins. Which he won’t.

Stroger’s polls show that he couldn’t win election against Rezko if Rezko suddenly got out of jail and found his name plastered on a voting ballot instead of on all the mud-slinging campaign literature it has dominated over the past two years.

So he figures the voters in the growing suburbs of Chicago are stupid. They voted overwhelmingly to reject the Stroger Tax in referenda in several townships and more referenda will be placed on next year’s ballot including one to throw Stroger out of office. Today, throughout the county, voters are gathering to protest Stroger’s taxes with “Tea Bag” parties, too.

Stroger’s offenses are numerous.

I remember when African American Rap Star Kanye West blasted President Bush by racistly blurting out during a concert to raise funds for the poor “Bush hate Black People.” Some people insist the same about Stroger, that he disrespects and doesn’t care about White people.

Stroger has been unresponsive to the requests from the suburbs for interviews. He refuses to be accountable to that segment of the population and plays to the racial fears hoping race will be the issue so he can hide from the reality of his failed leadership.

But race is not the issue. At issue is government incompetence. Government waste. Government arrogance. And a government that neither listens nor talks to all the people of the county.

Instead of “rolling back” the Stroger Tax, Todd Stroger should resign now and spare himself the humiliating rejection he has worked so hard to earn.

Rolling back the tax .25 percent is an empty gesture, a gesture of a government official and his do-nothing minions who are more concerned about their own personal political futures than they are about the future of the people they lord over in Cook County.

Stroger is one of the most irresponsible leaders the Chicagoland region has encountered in many years. And his roll-back is more of an act of desperation than one of leadership. It only reinforces the notion that Stroger has no regard for the public, only his selfish, personal future as he tries to cling to his place at the banks of the government trough.

-- Ray Hanania

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