Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Stroger may have won (and taxpayers lost) this battle, but Stroger will lose the war

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Stroger may have won the battle but not the war

By Ray Hanania

Cook County Board President Todd Stroger boasts he won the battle to “save” the 1 percent hike in the county sales tax, a repressive tax that mostly harms the poor and lower incomed citizens.

Stroger’s victory came when Commissioner Deborah Sims, who supported the tax hike and who later – under pressure from constituents – voted to roll it back a ½ percent, flip-flopped again and refused to support the override of Stroger’s veto.

Sims’ told reporters she owed her loyalty to Stroger, the silver-spoon-fed politician who was lifted to public office by his powerful father, the late and former County Board President. Stroger has never had to work a single day of his life in a real job and the notion of paying a sales tax means nothing to someone who has everything done for him in life.

Although Stroger managed to prevent a repeal of half of his repressive sales tax hike – his only real achievement since the county board presidency was handed to him on a silver spoon – Stroger faces losing the war in the Democratic primary election Feb. 2.

Several strong candidates have stood up to challenge Stroger in the Democratic primary, Cook County Circuit Clerk Dorothy Brown and Chicago Alderman Toni Preckwinkle. It will be a tough battle, the notion being that Brown and Preckwinkle and others will divide the anti-Stroger vote. Congressman Danny Davis is also eying the race. But Stroger has so little popularity in the county that dividing the anti-Stroger vote will still give the challengers strong pluralities to win.

The real hero in this saga, though, is not in the Democratic Party, although key Democratic members were among the leadership in fighting to rollback the repressive 1 percent Stroger Sales Tax hike, like Commissioners Larry Suffredin and John Daley.

County Commissioner Liz Gorman, a Republican, was dogged in her determination to protect Cook County taxpayers. She refused to give up when everyone said it was impossible to build a coalition to challenge Stroger’s veto threats.

Gorman stubbornly pushed the issue, first trying to roll back the entire sales tax hike, which is chasing businesses out of Cook County into neighboring suburban communities and placing a heavy burden on consumers who are scaling back purchases.

When that failed, she came back with a 1.4 percent roll back and then a 12 percent roll back. Her persistence raised public awareness of the incompetence of the Stroger administration. The fact is that despite all the tax money that Stroger can dole out to hire ineffective flaks to rattle his cause in the lobbies of local community newspapers, the public recognizes that Stroger is incapable of running county government.

He has a record alliance against him that crosses color lines and political party lines, too.

Stroger is a coward, too, and fears defending his administration’s actions, hiding behind an army of paid consultants, PR flaks and patronage people, including a few who have criminal records.

He is remembered not for great achievement and foresight in leadership, but for his typically Machine extravagances like hiring a busboy who catches his eye at a costly steak house. Or his inability to control his high-salaried staff who wield their power to benefit themselves personally.

Normally, incompetence in office is rewarded by the party Machine but the Machine is even tiring of his failed leadership.

Meanwhile, in Stroger’s beleaguered administration and as he stumbles through office avoiding responsibility or accountability, declining media interview requests and dodging the tough questions, Gorman is rising as a powerful watchdog to defend the rights of Cook County voters.

Her coalition includes insightful leadership like Daley and Suffredin and many others.

Hopefully, the tax advocates in Stroger’s alliance, including Joan Patricia Murphy, who unbelievably tried to push the sales tax up by 2 percent, and Sims, will be swept out of office with the rest of the trash in February.

Murphy is being challenged by Nick Valadez. Sims may be challenged again by Dian M. Powell. It’s still early but it could save taxpayers a lot of money if Stroger, Murphy and Sims would just step down. We can only hope.


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