Saturday, September 24, 2011

Protests force three Cook County Commissioner holdouts to take furloughs

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In the past year, Cook County;s employees were slapped with 10 furlough days to off-set the growing deficit at  County Government caused by the poor leadership of former County Board President Todd Stroger. Instead of cutting the bloated bureaucracy, Stroger slammed taxpayers by adding 1 percent to the already overburdened Sales Tax.

The sales tax was repealed following a stubborn campaign led by Cook County Commissioner Elizabeth "Liz" Gorman. Ironically, Gorman was attacked by two Orland Park village officials -- Trustees Ed Schussler and Patricia Gira -- who claimed she was responsible for the county's terrible financial situation. Without getting in to the equally terrible financial situation of their Village budget, it was hypocritical since Schussler and Gira were partly responsible for the repeal of the sales tax rebate paid to Orland Park homeowners.

Orland Park increased the sales tax to grab funds from consumers, many of whom come to Orland Park from other communities. The rebate was intended to take the burden off of residents. But that came to an abrupt end.

In my book, increasing the Cook County Sales Tax by adding 1 percent is the equivalent of eliminating the Orland Park village sales tax rebate by Schussler and Gira. There is no difference.

But back to Cook County. This week, enraged by the declaration of five Cook County Commissioners that they would refuse to do what they imposed on county workers and they would not take furlough days to help the county saves money, three of them changed their minds. Or, should we say their minds were changed for them. Cook County residents pelted Commissioners Deborah Sims, Joan Patricia Murphy and Robert Steele to accept the furlough.

Imagine the gall of Murphy, who had originally pushed hard to increase the sales tax not 1 percent as Stroger sought but by 2 percent. Murphy claims she can't take the furlough days but will reimburse the county to the tune of $3,269.23, or the equivalent of what their $85,000 a year salary would have lost with the furlough days. She's too busy to take days off. As a PR person now and no longer a journalist, I have to admit that excuse is a brilliant deception, what we call in the business "spin."

Murphy thinks I don't like her, but she's wrong. I do like her. I like the Old Joan Murphy. I like the old Joan Murphy who put the taxpayers' interests above the interests of her political cronies. Murphy is a good person but her policies have been horrible. She should take the lead of Gorman, who has put the interests of taxpayers above her own.

And Schussler and Gira also should follow Gorman's lead instead of bashing her the way they have. It's bad enough the saddled Orland Park taxpayers doubling the village's debt by piling on a loan for a private developer to build a questionable apartment complex. Orland taxpayers are paying the $62 million to fund the Ninety7Fifty in the Park project. Why? Because the village officials have, over the past decade, done whatever they wanted.

Well, the furlough at Cook County won't off-set the mess that Stroger and his allies (Sims and Murphy) have put the county in over the years. And the sales tax rebate money the village has taken away from taxpayers won't cover the loan to the private developers who promised to pay us back. But it is symbolic.

Although, one word about promises. The developers have promised to repay the loan, which is essentially a mortgage in a time when mortgages are falling like dominoes. But promises are sometimes not kept, like when Mayor Dan McLaughlin promised to rebate the sales taxes of residents when he increased the sales tax so many years ago. Afterawhile, the politicians believe that promises can be forgotten and then will be broken.

We'll see. But don't be surprised.

-- Ray Hanania

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