Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Surprise, surprise! Stroger vetoes attempt by critics to restrain his final months

I’m sure there are political observers who are now condemning Cook County Board President Todd Stroger for the fact that he used his veto power to kill a proposal intended to be a good government gesture by the full county board.

But when one considers that the so-called good government gesture was really nothing more than a cynical move in and of itself against Stroger, I can’t say I am all that offended by the fact that the lame duck president refused to play along.

TO BE SPECIFIC, the county board of Commissioners last week approved a series of measures that restrict the county president’s authority, particularly when it comes to spending of county money. There are those who fear that Stroger will use his final months in office to reward his allies financially – at county expense.

Stroger made it clear the day the county board acted that he was not going to go along with this political attack willingly. On Monday, he carried through on that promise by issuing the veto on the ordinance that would impose a hiring freeze on county government – unless Stroger could justify any new hires on the grounds that they constituted a legitimate county emergency.

Now I read those same news reports that everybody else did in recent weeks – the ones that implied Stroger bought new furniture for his government office and was giving significant pay hikes to people who had family ties to himself.

I’m not saying I necessarily approve of the idea that Stroger seems to want to use every remaining bit of time he has in Cook County government to his advantage. A part of me thinks the county board members who voted 16-1 to restrict Stroger’s power were well-intentioned, if misguided.

WHICH MAY MAKE county board member William Beavers (the “1” in the “16-1” vote) the most logical county commissioner when he called the moves “ridiculous.”

My bottom-line thought process on this issue says that political people need to get over the level of disgust they feel for Stroger and accept the fact that Todd still has six-and-a-half months remaining on his four-year term.

He still has the authority to do things, and the idea that he should be restrained for the rest of his term because of his electoral loss in the Feb. 2 primary comes off as petty politicking on the part of the people who voted against Stroger.

To be honest, the pettiness expressed against Stroger offends me much more than anything Stroger does. The fact is that he won back in 2006, and that victory gave him authority through December of this year.

IT IS THE reason why I also found it ridiculous for the Arlington Heights-based Daily Herald newspaper to editorialize last week that Stroger needs to resign his post. If anything, we’re stuck with him. We will be rid of him soon enough.

Come December, we will get a transition, most likely to Alderman Toni Preckwinkle. Be honest, Cook County will remain a Democratic Party bastion in the Nov. 2 general elections, it is the suburban collar counties that will decide whether or not Illinois swings Republican for a couple of years before things settle back to the status quo for future elections.

Personally, I can look at the long-range picture once Stroger leaves. Because all that this activity within the county board is going to cause is more legal activity – which ought to be the last thing anybody wants.

For the fact of that 16-1 vote is that the county board has more than enough votes to approve an override of Stroger’s “veto,” when they meet again next week.

WHICH MEANS THE restrictions on Stroger’s authority ultimately will become law. Stroger knows that. He knew it when he signed the paperwork calling for a veto.

This is about him saying he’s not going to let himself get pushed around for the next few months by the people who for the past four years have been taking his name in vain every time it gets mentioned. Which means that once the veto override is approved, the next step will be some sort of court battle. Stroger against the county board. Which means that the county’s attorneys will get a court battle, along with all the special legal counsels that will have to be hired at county taxpayer expense.

After all, whose side would the county’s attorneys take in this fight? The commissioners who are restricting goverment authority, or the president who is being smacked about? This particular fight ultimately comes down to the taxpayers being the losers – regardless of which side would prevail years from now.

I don’t see the need to put the Cook County taxpayers through that kind of an expensive legal fight, especially not with the tight economic times our government now faces, just because some political people want to reinforce the thought that Todd Stroger leaves office in Decemberr in defeat.


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