Thursday, December 10, 2009

Should we "fix" or "change" Cook County: the debate might miss the ball

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Last march, Nick Valadez launched a group called "Fix Cook County." His web site is and the group sought to encourage candidates to step up to the plate and run for public office.

Recently, another group has surfaced called "Change Cook County." But in the end, the two groups might cause Cook County to remain the same. Their web site is

Amazingly, Change is similar to Fix in wording especially on the issues of transparency, the accountability and sound financial management.

Valadez is challenging Cook County Commissioner Joan Patricia Murphy in the 6th District. Murphy not only supported Cook County Board President Todd Stroger's repressive 1 percent sales tax, she wanted to go further and impose a sales tax increase of 2 percent.

Of the five commissioners who backed Stroger in the last vote to rollback the sales tax 5 percent, Murphy was one of its chief sponsors. She was matched only in audacity on the board by County Commissioner Deborah Sims in the 5th District -- Sims was the commissioner who flipped flop and couldn't make up her mind. Should she screw the taxpayers of Cook County by increasing the sales or should she stand by the people. Sims, like Murphy, chose to stand by Stroger and the taxpayers be damned!

Challenging Sims is Matteson Trustee Sheila Chalmers-Currin. Chalmers-Currin has a strong chance of unseating Sims, who is best known for the FOX News expose which showed her being driven around in an expensive Cadillac by her chief of staff, who is paid by the taxpayers, too.

But also on the Change Cook County unofficial slate is John Fairman, a Justice trustee. Now, Fairman seems to be a decent person. I don't know much about him because he has only lived in Illinois since 2003. But more surprisingly, Fairman just won a seat on the Village of Justice board as a trustee this past April.

For a guy who no one really knows, his ambitions are getting a head of themselves. Wouldn't you think you would spend time working for the people of Justice first as the newly elected trustee before throwing your hat in for a powerhouse job like Cook County Commissioner?

The candidate I think can beat Murphy is Valadez. And just because a bunch of candidates come together on a  web site doesn't mean much. Valadez has sent out two direct mail pieces that I have seen and is planning much more. I haven't see anything from Fairman in the 6th District except for a sign on an office in Homewood that I drive past often when I take my son to Hebrew School.

The Change Cook County slate has some strong candidates among its ranks, though, including Dr. Victor Forys who many believe is the lead candidate in the Democratic Primary battle in the 17th Cook County District. Forys is facing-off with Patrick Maher, the president of the Orland Fire Protection District and son of a longtime Village Clerk, David Maher. Patrick is a decent person pushed, I think, by a 19th Ward family that insists that every son become a Chicago mayor -- none have by the way. but that kind of pressure takes the nicest people and throws them into losing causes all the time.

The winner of the Democratic primary will then find themselves on the butcher's block facing off against Cook County Commissioner Elizabeth "Liz" Doody Gorman who is an anti-sales tax powerhouse. Gorman, working with a handful of county commissioner, literally shoved the sales tax fight into Stroger's lap refusing to allow him to brush it away. Gorman kept bringing the sales tax fight back every time Stroger so arrogantly slapped it down until last month when the county board voted to roll back the sales tax by half of one percent.

Gorman is a certainty to win re-election despite some strong issues being raised by Forys. Maher can take this experience back to the Orland Fire Protection District where a good leader would trim the fat and bring the district to par with other Fire Protection Districts, or maybe even embrace my idea to do away with the fire protection district as a separate taxing body (one of the highest taxed in Orland Township) and merge it in with the village, cutting at least $15 million in costs and saving the taxpayers a bundle.

Of course, politicians don't listen to the public until it's too late.

-- Ray Hanania

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