Thursday, January 17, 2013

Some people just don’t get the concept of doing things more efficiently!

We’re in a new year, and it seems that the Cook County Board has a resolution – they’re going to try to run their twice-a-month board meetings more efficiently.

At least that’s what their intent seems to be. In actuality, the board on Wednesday managed to plod its way through its public business in as inefficient a manner as possible.

FOR THE RECORD, the news reports that will come out of the Wednesday session will focus on gun control – particularly the fact that the county board approved a resolution telling the General Assembly to approve a bill now pending to restrict firearms even further.

The board also will consider a measure to make it a crime to fail to report a firearm missing. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart says too many people who resell firearms to people who shouldn’t have them try claiming that “oops, I forgot” to report that weapon stolen!

But that activity managed to take up about, at most, a half-hour of a four-hour session. And it came at the very end of the session.

Anybody sitting through the county board activity on Wednesday had to endure hours of minutia – particularly a full hour on the subject of when it is appropriate to use electronic monitoring on someone rather than keeping them confined in the Cook County Jail.

THE CHANGE IN policy is that county board meetings now officially will start one hour later than they used to. While all the committee meetings that previously took place simultaneously with the board meeting will take place in the first hour that used to be the county board session.

It is good in one respect. It used to be a pain in the derriere to have to keep straight whether the board was acting as a board, a finance committee or some other entity.

But on Wednesday, it meant that the committees were done within 15 minutes. And that was delayed because the bulk of the commissioners couldn’t be bothered to show up on time.

Although they eventually straggled in and a quorum was reached, I couldn’t help but notice Commissioner John Fritchey, D-Chicago, showing up for business two minutes AFTER all the committee activity was over.

NOT THAT HE missed much! Although I think Commissioner Peter Silvestri, R-Elmwood Park, hit it right on the nose when he said, “the first time we do this new schedule, there’s no business.”

Even county board President Toni Preckwinkle was off a little bit, as she initially started the formal part of the county board meeting with an announcement that committees would now meet – only to be told by Commissioner John Daley, D-Chicago, that the committee business was already complete.’

"I’m going off the old script,” she quipped.

Actually, if there’s something that the county board could do if it were seriously interested in shortening its board meetings, it would be to do away with all those ceremonial resolutions they feel compelled to debate and discuss at will.

ON WEDNESDAY, THERE was but one (by Commissioner Jesus Garcia, D-Chicago, honoring the memory of a long-deceased doctor of Mexican ethnic heritage). But there have been times when they feel compelled to honor a half-dozen people at a time – which stretches out the pomp and fluff into hours of mind-numbing activity.

Then there are all the little tidbits of business – such as the awarding of a contract to Finer Foods of Chicago to provide all the poultry products that will be fed to inmates at the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, or the deal that says county jail inmates will now be used to clean and feed the animal population at the Animal Care Facility, 2741 S. Western Ave. The city will pay the county just over $323,000 per year for that detail.

Daley might have been right technically when he said that making the change would allow the board meeting proper to “blow right through the agenda.”

But it still is a mind-numbing place to watch politicking take place – not truly gross enough to be classified as sausage-making.

BUT STILL NOT the most refined of processes to watch.

Which is why listening to Daley in response to the county board’s invocation might have been Wednesday’s highlight.

The pastor in question who gave the prayer recently transferred from a Bridgeport-neighborhood church to one in Hyde Park.

Which Daley – the life-long Bridgeport native himself – said amounts to, “leaving a great ward to go to a good ward.”


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