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County commissioners will wait for word from Stroger family

Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Chicago Defender
by Mema Ayi

A day fraught with anticipation left Cook County commissioners no further along despite three proposals on replacing ailing Board President John Stroger (D-4th).
Republican Cook County Commissioner Anthony Peraica speaks during a board meeting Tuesday. AP/M. Spencer Green
Stroger, 77, has not returned to work since suffering a serious stroke one week before the March 21 primary.
At a meeting of the Cook County board Tuesday, commissioners heard the three proposals after Cook County State’s Attorney Dick Devine earlier this week issued a ruling regarding governance of the board in the absence of the president. The county board has the authority to remove Stroger by declaring his position vacant, so long as he is given an opportunity to object.
A proposal to replace the president by Stroger’s Republican challenger in November, Tony Peracia (R-16th), was shot down.
Peracia proposed the commissioners hold a competency hearing and subpoena doctors, nurses and visitors of the president to gauge his condition.
“It was outrageous and most inhumane,” said Stroger spokeswoman Chinta Strausberg said of Peracia’s proposal.
Peracia did not return Defender calls seeking comment.
The board also sent to committee two proposed ordinances that had bipartisan support. One called for one board member to temporarily serve as acting president if the president is unable to fulfill his duties. The other would create a process to address the temporary absence.
Stroger’s family is expected to make an announcement next month on the president’s condition and whether or not he will return to his seat on the board.
Commissioner Bobbie Steele (D-2nd), who has said she would be willing to step up as the interim president if Stroger chooses not to return, told the Defender that while there are some issues that need to be addressed, July is not too long to wait for word on Stroger’s intentions.
“We’ve waited this long, we can wait a little longer,” Steele said. “He’s fought a good fight and left his mark on this county. Wherever he is, I hope he is doing better and an hope he is not thinking about county government.”
The county is facing a threatened nurses' strike and has budgetary issues to grapple with.
“It’s becoming clear to us that we need a succession plan,” Steele said. “We know there are issues we need to deal with because of the responsibilities we have (to Cook County residents).”
But no matter what happens, a decision on Stroger's leadership needs to come quickly, commissioners said Tuesday.
"We have critical decisions to be made and they need to be made by an elected person and not by people the president chooses to make those decisions," Commissioner Mike Quigley said.
Strausberg has said that Stroger's chief of staff, James Whigham, is running the county "on behalf of the president, who is talking to him."

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