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This is John Stroger's legacy?

Thursday, June 29, 2006
Chicago Tribune

Chicago politics is often a family business. So it's believable that John Stroger, who isn't healthy enough to run for re-election in November--but who allegedly is healthy enough to run a $3 billion government until then--wants his son to succeed him as president of the Cook County Board.

But that is no excuse for the way that Democratic politicos and aides closest to Stroger have dawdled and schemed to cut a deal that protects their vested interests.

They have milked and manipulated the Stroger family's desire for privacy during the 15-plus weeks since Stroger suffered his stroke. And now they have cut a succession deal. It's a deal these insiders no doubt hope assures them continued influence over Cook County patronage and contracting.

But by what right have the politicos and the aides allowed the county's grave budget shortfall to worsen while they plot Todd Stroger's inheritance of his father's job?

By what right has their refusal to encourage the choice of an interim replacement for John Stroger left county government leaderless as its number of other pressing problems grows?

By what right do they ordain as Stroger's successor in this crucial post--the second most important job in local government--a son who has shown no leadership whatsoever in the Illinois legislature or the Chicago City Council?

After John Stroger's decades of public service, those closest to him want this to be his legacy?

This is a debacle that doesn't have to be.

Not every resident of Cook County buys the notion that only another African-American can succeed Stroger. But if the realities of Democratic politics make that the case, the county's 80 Democratic committeemen can choose one of several potential candidates who have much, much stronger records of achievement than Todd Stroger.

The committeemen could choose Terry Peterson, the former alderman who is leading the Chicago Housing Authority's transformation of public housing.

They could choose Michael Scott, who in early June announced his resignation as president of the Chicago Board of Education.

They could choose Tim Evans, a former City Hall powerhouse and now chief judge of the county's court system.

Each of those three respected and highly talented African-Americans has more administrative and budget experience in his pinky finger than Todd Stroger has in his dreams.

So here's a question for voters to consider: If Todd Stroger winds up trying to fill his father's chair, who'll really be making decisions?

The Stroger insiders, and any committeemen who play along with this deal, are betting that voters don't really care. It's just Cook County.

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