Thursday, September 27, 2012

Stroger ‘eradication’ more important to county pols than a simple policy

We’re coming up on that time of the year when the Cook County Board has to put together a budget for the upcoming year, and officials seem determined to want to say that they’re erasing the memories of former board President Todd Stroger.
STROGER: The contempt remains

Even if that winds up complicating their best efforts to approve a spending plan for county government that comes close to being balanced.

FOR BOARD PRESIDENT Toni Preckwinkle’s budget director told the City Club of Chicago this week that there may be a combination of fee increases and select tax hikes to raise more money for county government.

But this will come as Preckwinkle is determined to be able to say she erased from the books that increase in the sales tax in Cook County that Stroger pushed for during his time in office to try to balance out the books.

That was the increase that pushed the overall sales tax in Chicago to over 10 percent, and was the continual rallying point for Stroger’s opposition – most of whom were really opposed to him because of the way he got elected and were never willing to forgive him for it.

County officials have been decreasing their share of the sales tax in recent years, and this is the year that the last 0.25 percent of Stroger’s increase is supposed to be removed.

AFTER THIS YEAR, our government officials will be able to boast that they rescinded a tax increase that was incredibly unpopular (not that any tax increase is ever considered desirable).

But it seems that perhaps Stroger and his allies (he does have them, whether you want to believe it or not) were right in thinking that the revenue from that increase was necessary if there is to be a balanced budget for Cook County government.

We may well be in a situation where our county officials do away with a portion of the sales tax so they can claim they’re looking out for our best interests and will have something solid to show for it.

But then we’ll be told the equivalent of not looking too hard behind the curtain, on account of the fact that there may be other tax and fee increases that will get passed to make up for the lost revenue.

EITHER WAY, IT seems we’re going to have to pay. It’s just a matter of which fund our money gets paid into. From our perspective, it all comes out of the same wallet.

Which makes all of this seem like a lot of partisan bumbling that won’t save us anything of significance. Except that those of us whose political hang-ups concerning Stroger will be appeased.

A minor concession, if we still have to pay more.

Although I’ll concede that we don’t know how much more, since county officials are refusing to be specific about what they have in mind. We’ll probably learn for sure what will be done come that date in December when the county board gives its approval to an actual budget.

WE’LL BE KEPT in the dark until then, in all likelihood. I’m not sure that any ding to Stroger’s reputation is worth this trade-off.

Then again, it seems that almost anything is acceptable to people, so long as Todd comes off on the bad end.

Take the legislative election taking place on the West Side, where former state Rep. Derrick Smith (the representative who was expelled from the Illinois House) is the Democrat on the ballot who faces an independent challenger.

That challenger, recruited by Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, turns out to be a former chief of staff to Stroger.

WHICH HAS SOME (including Preckwinkle herself) thinking that having a legislator who faces charges of soliciting bribes in U.S. District Court is less embarrassing than backing someone with ties to Stroger.

Either way, the situation comes across as embarrassing to all.


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