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In Cook County, the son rises (so does the daughter)

Thursday, June 29, 2006
Daily Southtown

THE ISSUE: In a maneuver typical of how things operate in these parts, John Stroger's son is having the way paved for him to succeed his ailing father as county board president.

WE SAY: This move and another one that would result in an alderman's daughter taking over his post are insults to good government. Unfortunately, voters around here seem to have become oblivious to these family handoffs.

Some of the local government watchdog types have been trying to make the argument that Cook County needs a formal process for replacing the county board president in the event of a serious illness, such as the one that incapacitated John Stroger in March.
Such talk was disrespectful to Stroger, his supporters warned. Meanwhile, they were working out the deal to replace him, and as everyone should have realized all along, there is a process for replacing the board president. As with so many other local offices, the job goes to the president's designated offspring.
In the case of the Stroger family, that means Todd Stroger, alderman of Chicago's 8th Ward, is about to be anointed as the Democratic candidate for county board president. Being chosen as the Democratic candidate is generally considered the same as being appointed to the job.
The deal, which John Stroger supposedly will propose in a letter to party officials, is slightly more complicated than a pure father-to-son handoff. The scenario also calls for Chicago Ald. William Beavers (7th) to take over John Stroger's spot as a candidate for 4th District county commissioner, which will make him a shoo-in in the November election. Beavers declared himself to be the Stroger family spokesman a few weeks ago.
And because Beavers' city council seat will be vacated, he'll have to be replaced with an appointee selected by Mayor Richard Daley. The appointee will be — are we surprised? — Beavers' daughter, now his chief of staff, according to reports published Wednesday.
"How can they get away with this?" a caller to our office asked on Wednesday morning. The answer isn't all that complicated. They can get away with it because we Chicagoans expect things to work this way and most voters in Chicago and the rest of Illinois don't really see anything wrong with hereditary elected offices.
As Chicago Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) said: "Mike Madigan anointed his daughter. Tom Hynes anointed his son. Bill Lipinski anointed his son. So why can't John Stroger anoint his son?"
While we understand the argument, we would point out that Lisa Madigan won primary and general elections to become attorney general, and Dan Hynes did the same thing to become state comptroller. Both obviously benefited from their family ties, but both also won their party's nomination and the general election.
Dan Lipinski was anointed, to be sure, when his dad pulled out of the 3rd District congressional race after winning the primary and then called in political favors and got party leaders to make his son the replacement candidate.
So Todd Stroger apparently is going to benefit from the same kind of deal. Could he have won a primary election for the post? Perhaps if his father had pulled the strings. And if the deal goes down as expected, he'll likely win the general election in the fall.
But the process is insulting to the voters of Cook County and works in the interest of the politicians and their families and friends — not in the interests of Cook County voters and taxpayers. Public offices are supposed to be filled by elections, after the candidates declare their intentions, explain their platforms and face the voters.
If the party leaders ratify the deal and give the nomination to Todd Stroger, the odds in November will be overwhelmingly in his favor. The voters will have a say only nominally because the real election in Cook County is the Democratic primary.



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