Thursday, April 9, 2009

Suburbs can break from Cook County -- they just need to organize

Voters in three suburban townships voted overwhelmingly to secede from Cook County. Palatine, Barrington and Hanover Township. Voters in portions of Schaumburg Township also voted to reject Cook County’s unrepresentative dictates.

Yet rather than respect the voters, spokesmen for Cook County Board President Todd Stroger did what they always do, mocking suburban residents and calling them foolish.

Stroger, who passed the most repressive taxes in Cook County in years and is probably the least representative president of any predecessor, is laughing.

He and his over-paid consultants and un-communicating PR flaks are probably right now drawing up new plans to hammer Cook County residents with even more repressive taxes in order to pay for the county’s bloated political payroll, its wasteful government spending and its do-nothing bureaucracy.

Because Stroger doesn’t see the vote against his repressive taxes on Tuesday April 7 in some of these suburban communities as a sign he should straighten up his act. He views the votes as “insolence.”

It is our fault as suburban voters. The suburbs of Cook County failed to get their act together. We acted out of emotion. We did what we always do, responded with knee-jerk referenda, disorganized rejection of high government taxes and waste, and then casually voted as if it doesn’t mean anything.

But it does mean something. Things need to change. We need to get organized.

There are 30 townships in suburban Cook County. They are: Barrington, Berwyn, Bloom, Bremen, Calumet, Cicero, Elk Grove, Evanston, Hanover, Lemont, Leyden, Lyons, Maine, New Trier, Niles, Northfield, Norwood Park, Oak Park, Orland, Palatine, Palos, Proviso, Rich, River Forest, Riverside, Schaumburg, Stickney, Thornton, Wheeling and Worth.

There are about 5.8 million people living in Cook County (just under half the state’s population 12.5 million population). No single county should control the state and we can get allies to support us from downstate too.

I also believe that 3 million of those residents live in the 30 townships. I also believe that Chicago is lying and has manipulated the census data to bloat their budgets and steal more money from the suburbs, has only 2.8 million residents. Regardless, a new census is about to start and we can do a better job of making sure suburban Cook is properly represented.

The process of separating from Cook County is not that complicated. According to officials, each of the 30 Townships would need to vote to secede or separate from Cook County. And then, the entire county would have to vote, too.

The secession movement so far has no leader. It doesn’t have a plan. Stroger knows that. He also knows that the powers that lord over the taxpayers like Mayor Richard m. Daley and Gov. Pat Quinn, support him and will do everything they can to prevent the suburbs from breaking from their bondage.

So, like his government, Stroger’s Cook County doesn’t care about the suburbs.

But secession is not that complicated. Here’s what we do.

First, we lay out a plan. What would we do if the suburbs did vote to break from Cook County? The first thing would be to take the township governments and convert them into the government of the new county.

Township supervisors could become the new county’s board of commissioners. They could provide the leadership by convening a County-wide constitutional convention to discuss how to move forward.

Right now, Stroger can mock the suburbs because he knows suburbanites are doing what they always do at the polls, if they make it there on election day. And most do not. The suburbs are reacting out of emotion rather than common sense strategy.

The Townships in Cook County could merge services creating one new county assessor, one new county roads commissioner, one new county office for each office that now exists in Cook County and doesn’t do its job anyway under Stroger.

Stroger says we’d lose a lot of services, like the County Jail and County Hospital. The County jail isn’t a service. It is a burden. Neither is the County Hospital, which only services a small portion of Cook County’s needs.

The majority of people being held in County Jail are from Chicago. The majority of people served by County Hospital are from Chicago. The majority of people working at these institutions are from Chicago.

The new County – call it Lincoln County or Liberty County – could easily adapt. We have jails and we have courthouses. We can keep our criminals in our jails. We can bring our criminals to our court houses.

And we can takeover those hospital buildings in the suburbs that are in suburban Cook County and convert them into a suburban hospital to services all of the people of the new county.

Stroger says we would lose a lot of services. But he knows the only loser would be him.

It wouldn’t be easy to do, but it can be done. It is more than just a protest against the corruption and the tax oppression from an unrepresentative Chicago Machine that has tentacles in City Hall, the Cook County Board and even the offices of our Governor.

The first step is to convene a Suburban Cook County Constitutional Convention. The elected leaders in our county need to step up to the plate. And we can start with the Supervisors in the 30 suburban townships.

Let’s get our act together and start discussing it. Let’s do it right. Let’s free ourselves from Stroger’s failed leadership.

With the right leadership, every township would vote overwhelmingly to break from corrupt and bloated Cook County. And with the right strategy, many of the citizens in Chicago would vote to support secession, too, believing that by dividing the county, maybe for once, they will get real services, too, instead of political lip-service and empty Stroger promises.

-- Ray Hanania

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